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Animal welfare is usually considered to play an important role in the charity of a country. In Canada, 44% of the land is covered with vegetation, which provides habitat for hundreds of wild animal and bird species. Pet population in Canada has also been on the rise in recent years; in 2014, Canadian households were home to an estimated 7.0 million cats, whereas the population of domestic dogs has reached 7.6 million in 2016 (CAHI). Also, Canada has a large number of livestock and the performance of animals. The large population of animals requires an effective system of animal welfare protection, both on federal and local levels. Canada’s government and the justice system must oversee the welfare of pets, livestock, and performance animals equally to ensure an ethical approach to animal rights protection. Five freedoms outline animal welfare, all of which can be controlled by people:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst;
- Freedom from discomfort;
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease;
- Freedom to express normal behavior;
- Freedom from fear and distress.
These five principles outline a successful approach that has to be taken by Canada to balance animal rights on the national level. There is a variety of Canada-based organizations, both public and private than promote and enforce adequate protection of animal rights. Also, there are separate laws and processes in place to protect different animal species, including wild animals, pets, and farm animals. However, despite the recent efforts to enhance the protection of animal rights in Canada, there are still some concerns that the government has to address. The essay aims to provide an overview of the legislation and regulations that control animal welfare in Canada, as well as to outline and explain some of the weaknesses evident in the system.
Domestic companion animals, such as cats and dogs, are popular among Canadians and are somewhat protected by laws, although cruelty towards pets remains an issue. Cruelty, abuse, and neglect against pets are considered to be a crime by the federal Criminal Code. Sections 444 to 447 of the Criminal Code establish laws and penalties regarding animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect (Minister of Justice 463-466). For example, section 445.1 states that it is a criminal offense to cause unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal or bird (Minister of Justice 465). The same section of the Criminal code establishes a penalty for encouraging, aiding in or assisting at the fighting or baiting activities involving animals or birds, ultimately positioning dogfighting and bird fighting as illegal (Minister of Justice 465). However, there are still some issues faced by pets in Canada. First of all, the approach taken by courts in the cases of animal cruelty is rather weak, which leads to a small number of convictions in animal cruelty cases (CFHS Political Animal 2).
According to CFHS, this is primarily because the prosecution relies on the definition of neglect as willful, which is challenging to prove (Political Animal 2). Secondly, the crimes of cruelty, abuse, or neglect against pets are not graded by the severity, which means that brutal crimes against animals receive the same penalty as minor offenses (CFHS Political Animal 2). Furthermore, Canada is currently facing a homeless cat crisis, which is not targeted at the federal level. In 2015, 82,436 homeless cats were admitted to shelters all across Canada (CFHS Comparison of Animal Shelter Statistics 2). Statistics also show that only 5 % of cats brought to shelters are returned to their owners, compared to 30% of dogs; furthermore, 21% of sheltered cats were euthanized, compares to 13% of dogs (CFHS Comparison of Animal Shelter Statistics 2). Private agencies such as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and Animal Justice actively initiate and run programs to improve pet welfare and protection in Canada. However, federal action is crucial to resolving the legal and ethical issues that remain.
Canada has well-developed dairy and meat industries; this requires adequate protection of animals bred for milk or meat, which are granted by Canada’s laws and regulations. For example, sections 444-445 of Canada’s Criminal Code establish a penalty for killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning, or injuring cattle and other animals that are kept for a lawful poison, as well as by leaving poison in places where animals can reach it (Minister of Justice 463). Indictable offenses of these laws might lead to imprisonment of no more than 5 years (Minister of Justice 463). Other pieces of legislation that ensure livestock welfare are Codes of Practice, issued by the NFACC. There are different Codes of Practice depending on the type of animal, with separate codes for beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, veal cattle, and others. There is also a separate code to guide the transportation of farming animals, which establishes standards for the health and comfort of animals. The humane transportation of animals is protected by the Part XII of the Health of Animals Regulations and is overseen by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as well as relevant local and federal authorities.
The regulations include food, hygiene, and health requirements; according to law, overcrowding of animals, using improper containers for transportations, and “loading, transporting or unloading of animals in a way that could cause injury or suffering” are prohibited (CFIA). The CFIA also oversees the slaughtering of animals for meat in registered establishments to ensure that humane slaughter requirements are maintained. The Meat Inspection Act, first established in 1985, also provides for the presence of adequate procedures and standards to ensure humane treatment and slaughter of livestock (10). Despite the existence of laws and regulations to protect animals, there are also some weaknesses in Canada’s approach to livestock welfare that could be harmful to animals. First of all, the Codes of Practice and legislation regarding transportation and slaughter are only relevant for registered establishments, which usually include large production sites. Besides, the investigation and prevention of cruelty against livestock rely on cooperation with local governments. Thus, low animal welfare standards in small local farms might be left unaddressed. Finally, the standards adopted by official agencies might be outdated and fail to address current issues. For instance, lifelong containment of pigs in gestational crates was only banned in 2014, later than in some U.S. states and European countries (HSI Canada). On the whole, despite adequate laws and procedures regulating livestock welfare, there are still some gaps to be addressed in future legislation.
Fur farming is a rather controversial business that needs strict laws and regulations to promote the comfort and safety of animals; however, in Canada, the legislation targeting commercial fur farming is fairly loose, which leads to mistreatment of animals. McSheffrey explores the issue of mink and fox farming issues in Canada, reporting that the containers are significantly overcrowded, with “roughly 70,000 mink squirmed in cages the size of two shoe boxes as heaps of their excrement mounted on the floor beneath them”. The author states that such conditions lead to severe suffering, causing anxiety and aggression and leading to injuries (McSheffrey). The key reason for such mistreatment of animals is the government’s approach to fur farming. According to McSheffrey, as of 2015, Canada had no official federal regulations governing the treatment of fur-farmed animals during their upbringing. A stronger approach to fur farming regulation would help individual provinces to address this issue.
The state of wildlife protection in Canada is adequate and poses no significant concerns. Unfair treatment of animals wild by nature is considered to be illegal by the country’s Criminal Code (Ministry of Justice 466). Also, there are separate laws to protect endangered species and their environment, including the Canada Wildlife Act and Species at Risk Act. Therefore, wildlife protection in Canada is effective and enforced by the federal government.
Animal Rights Activism
Animal rights issues evident in the country have attracted the attention of various animal rights groups, which actively seek to promote animal welfare in Canada. Animal Justice, CFHS, Mercy for Animals, Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada (AWFC), Peoples Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) are some of the key organizations; however, as estimated by CFHS, there are “125 humane societies and SPCAs employ close to 2,000 staff, supported by an estimated 26,000 volunteers” (Humane Societies and SPCAs in Canada). The report also notes that only 21% of the sector’s revenue is provided by the government, and less than half of the costs associated with the enforcement of animal cruelty regulations and laws are covered by the government (CFHS Humane Societies and SPCAs in Canada). Even though organizations working in this sector receive donations from the public, establishing a far funding policy would allow involving the government in their efforts, thus enhancing their effectiveness.
Overall, there are significant concerns related to animal welfare in Canada. As part of the project, Canada was compared to the U.S. and the U.K. in terms of animal welfare protection and enforcement using the data from World Animal Protection (WAP). According to WAP, Canada’s overall animal protection index is D, which is the same as the U.S. but significantly lower than the U.K., which is ranked as A. Some of the key issues indicated in the WAP report on Canada are the legal recognition of animal sentience, protection of animals in captivity, protection of animals used in scientific research, and government accountability for animal welfare. Whereas Canada received D or E grade on all of the above, the U.K. was ranked as A or B, and the U.S. obtained a C on most of these items (WAP). The system of animal protection in the United Kingdom is considered to be among the best ones in the world; therefore, using the experience of the U.K. government in establishing and enforcing animal welfare laws and regulations would allow Canada to be more effective in ensuring the protection of animal welfare across the country.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). “Humane Transportation of Animals: Information for the General Public.” CFIA, 2016, Web.
CFHS. Comparison of Animal Shelter Statistics, 1993-2015. N.d., Web.
CFHS. Political Animal. N.d., Web.
CFHS. “Humane Societies and SPCAs in Canada: A Comprehensive Look at the Sector”. CFHS, 2017, Web.
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HSI Canada. “Canada Bans Lifelong Confinement for Pigs in Controversial Gestation Crates.” HSI, 2014, Web.
McSheffrey, Elizabeth. “Behind Bars: Canada’s Fur-Farmed Mink and Fox.” National Observer. 2015, Web.
Meat Inspection Act. 2015, Web.
Minister of Justice. Criminal Code. 2017, Web.