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Be ready for the protesters

Hopefully a group never shows up at your farm gate, but if they do....

Gates at property access points should be closed when not in use and locked overnight.

The past year has brought several examples of activists trespassing on Canadian farms to create media exposure around farming practices. They’re expected to continue. As president of Ag & Food Exchange Ltd., Geraldine Auston, based in Surrey, B.C. provides an industry advisory service to help farmers, truckers and agri-businesses handle pressure from special-interest groups.

Earlier this year, Auston brought her expertise and ideas for farmers and other industry players facing the challenges of trespassing to the 2020 Banff Pork. Here’s a recap of her key recommendations.

Being prepared

With the rising incidence of farm trespass, it is important that you take steps to protect your family, animals and property, says Auston. All farms should take steps to secure their properties and implement any improvements to existing security and biosecurity plans. If you wish to reach out to your local law-enforcement detachment to discuss trespass and how they would respond, that may be useful.

Your conduct

How you handle yourself with trespassers is critical. Do not engage in any way, other than to inform them that they are trespassing and to leave your property. Inform them that the police have been called.

  • Do not use force when dealing with trespassers. Do not leave trespassers in a barn alone, and do not stay in a barn alone with them.
  • Capture your own evidence on your phone.
  • Police will respond to your 911 call as soon as possible. Be patient and continue to monitor trespassers until police are at your site.

Revisit security, biosecurity

  • Talk to your family, employees and any service providers about being mindful of security.
  • Be aware of any unusual activity around your property/region; engage your family and employees to be aware too.
  • Ensure you have adequate door locks to discourage break-ins.
  • Make sure all buildings are locked at all times including when you are working in barns.
  • Gates at property access should be closed when not in use, closed and locked overnight.
  • Ensure private property is obvious. Have signage and other identifiers (fences, gates, chains, etc.).
  • Use “No Trespassing” signs.
  • On a large property with multiple access points, ensure all are marked with signage and gates (if possible).
  • Use lighting around all buildings at night. Make sure the lighting is bright enough to discourage trespassers from surveying your property and leaves no dark areas to hide.
  • If you have alarms, use them.
  • If you have closed-circuit television (CCTV) make sure it is installed in such a way to collect the most valuable information/images from around your property. Ensure CCTV is not aimed to collect images from public areas.
  • If suspicious activity is identified in and around your property, record the details and report to your industry association and police (non-emergency line). Valuable information to collect is description of person, description of vehicle, date and time and why the activity is deemed suspicious. Collecting as much information as possible is important. Use your phone to capture images if you are able.

Preparing for mass trespass

If you are a target of active trespassing and/or break and enter you need to act with urgency, says Auston. Call 911 immediately, do not delay. Make sure it is clear that something is happening ‘right now.’ Ensure that the call taker has the correct details (trespass, break and enter, refusing to leave, any aggressive behaviour) and is aware that you feel threatened and are concerned for your safety and the safety of your animals. Be prepared to provide location and what is occurring and why (protesters/activists, risk to people/animals, any threats, preventing work, any property damage, etc.) Also what is being said, what is on signage, if they are using loudspeakers, number of people, descriptions of individuals, vehicles, and licence plates.

Article courtesy of Meristem Land & Science, Calgary.

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