Canada’s authoritarian stance against animal rights

Canada’s authoritarian stance against animal rights

How Ottawa stifles animal activists

Sun, Mar 6 – 4:53 AM

“Canada,” said the U.S. journalist, “is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China.” 

Another comment on Bev Oda and the garrotting of Kairos? Nope.

A reflection on the Harperites’ infatuation with harsh sentences and larger prisons? No.

Kyoto, Afghan detainees, the G20 repression, the flouting of the Supreme Court in the Omar Khadr case? Our humiliating defeat in the UN Security Council election? Could have been, but in fact it’s none of the above.

No, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People News, published in Clinton, Wash., is writing about the federal government’s denial of free speech to animal welfare charities in Canada. And he’s in touch with animal rights activists in China. He knows what they think.

“On February 5, 2011,” writes Clifton, the Canada Revenue Agency published “draft regulations governing animal charities which would ensure that any animal charity speaking out against anything that is not already illegal would lose nonprofit status.”

One specific example: the regulations make it clear that a Canadian animal charity would lose its charitable status if it opposed vivisection, which is the practice of operating on living animals in order to gain knowledge of pathological or physiological processes. A charity could suffer the same fate if it opposed the fur industry or the seal hunt.

In fact, says Clifton, the draft regulations provide “that an animal charity may only advocate policies and practices which benefit humans more than animals.”

Really? I hustled off to the CRA website. Sure enough, that’s exactly what the draft regulations say. The logic, if one can call it that, derives from British common law. The courts, says CRA, have determined that “an activity or purpose is only charitable when it provides a benefit to humans. For some purposes and activities, including those relieving the suffering of animals, the courts have decided that the benefit is the promotion of the moral or ethical development of the community.”

But don’t try to argue that supporting animal welfare is a good thing in and of itself. “Promoting the welfare of animals,” the CRA declares, “is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans.”

“Promoting the welfare of animals,” the CRA declares, “is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans.”

With respect to vivisection, says the CRA, the courts have decided that “seeking to abolish vivisection is not charitable. This is in part because, as the courts have put it, despite the suffering inflicted on animals, the ‘immense and incalculable benefits which have resulted from vivisection’ and the ‘positive and calamitous detriment of appalling magnitude’ that would result from its abolition, outweigh any possible promotion of the moral and ethical development of the community.”

The gaping flaw in the CRA’s argument, of course, is that it freezes — indeed, prevents — the evolution of the law. The law reflects the moral consensus of the community at a particular moment in time. When the consensus changes, the law must change as well. The law once decreed that women were chattels, slavery was fine, and petty theft warranted hanging. When society reversed its thinking on these matters, the law eventually reversed its position, too.

The CRA argues, in effect, that charitable purposes can only reflect the past — the decisions that the courts have already made. But the very phrase “the moral and ethical development of the community” concedes that moral and ethical attitudes evolve. That’s what the word “development” means. And if moral attitudes have evolved, then someone who demands corresponding changes in the law is very precisely “promoting the moral and ethical development of the community.”

A growing body of opinion now holds that we will not achieve our human potential — or even survive — unless we develop a respectful, ethical relationship with the rest of nature. The coyote, the cod and the chestnut have a right to live and flourish, and advocating on their behalf — with or without a benefit to humans — is a deeply moral activity and a legitimate charitable purpose.

Do the Harperites disagree? We’ll never know. They ignore ideas, and attack people instead. Lie about them. Impugn their motives. Cut their funding. Dissolve their organizations. Imprison them. Deny them charitable status.

“Canada is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China.”

A chilling remark. I wish I could claim it was wrong.

reprinted from the Chronicle Herald

Download the article | Read the CRA draft

New legislation against animal cruelty is happening across Canada

New legislation against animal cruelty is happening across Canada

N.W.T. passes revamped Dog Act

BLACK DOG © Fernando Jose Vascocelos Soares | Dreamstime.comCBC News | MarCH 4, 2011

Northwest Territories MLAs have passed new legislation that protects dogs from abuse, but the new law has an exemption that some say could be used as a loophole.

The N.W.T.’s previous Dog Act was based on legislation from the 1950s, when sled dogs were used for transportation. Changes to update the act were passed on Friday. (CBC)

A bill to update the Dog Act received assent on Friday, after it passed third reading in the territorial legislature.

The new legislation, which introduces tougher penalties for people who abuse or neglect dogs, replaces the previous Dog Act, which was based on laws dating to the 1950s.

Unlike animal legislation in southern Canada, the N.W.T.’s old Dog Act focused on dealing with sled dogs, which have been used for transportation in the North.

An earlier proposal by MLAs would have exempted owners from penalty if they caused distress to dogs while carrying out “traditional practices” such as dog-sledding and hunting.

‘Accepted activities’

That proposal sparked an outcry from animal-protection activists and others who said the term was vague and difficult to interpret.

The legislation was since changed so that the exemption applies “if the distress is caused by a treatment, process or condition that occurs in the course of an accepted activity.”

The act defines accepted activities to include the use of dogs to help with hunting, trapping, and protecting people from wildlife. (Read the new Dog Act here.)

An accepted activity must not cause a dog undue suffering, the legislation adds.

Yellowknife Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro said Friday that while the new legislation is “far improved from what we had before,” she still had concerns about the exemption.

“I don’t feel that part of the bill is necessary,” Bisaro said in the legislature.

Not a loophole, says minister

Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Robert McLeod said he does not believe the exemption will present a loophole for people accused of abusing their dogs.

“I don’t believe it’s a loophole,” McLeod told CBC News.

“If a guy goes up before a judge for cruelty to animals … where you leave 10 dogs outside starving to death, I don’t think he can use traditional practice as a loophole, because it’s not our traditional practice to leave dogs tied up outside and starving to death.”

McLeod added that longtime northerners who have used their dogs for traditional practices like sledding and hunting are among those who best look after their dogs.

Under the old Dog Act, those found guilty of a first offence were fined $25. The penalties for a first offence are now $2,500 or a three-month jail term or both.

Those found guilty of subsequent violations of the new Dog Act will be fined $10,000, handed a six-month jail term, or both.

Read more about the Dog Act

reprinted from CBC News