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Those interested in animal law will know that animals are generally relegated as mere property under the law. While animals enjoy certain protections under Canadian law, it is essential that the laws we have are rigorously enforced in order to give animals the protection they rightly deserve. Without it, how do animals still have a chance to fight?
In the words of the Alberta Court of Appeal in Canada’s most eloquent and important animal law dissent in the Lucy the Elephant case at the Edmonton Zoo, Chief Justice Catherine Fraser made it clear how important law enforcement is to animals:
“ … insufficient consideration of the interests of animals in drafting laws; priority to human interests always; restrictive judicial interpretation of protective legislation; common law precepts which treat animals as property and deny them or their advocates legal status; limitations on what constitutes a legitimate legal argument; restrictions on what is accepted as evidence; and anemic enforcement of animal welfare legislation. It is important to understand the nature and extent of these shortcomings … as they underscore why the courts should generously interpret the animal welfare laws we have …” (Reece v. Edmonton 2011 ABCA 238)
About 10 years since the Lucy judgment, Niagara Falls, Ont., Police in December 2021 posed a criminal charge against Marineland for allegedly using cetaceans as performers in shows, contrary to the Criminal Code from Canada. This is a revolutionary and important accusation that indicates that animals matter, that they deserve to be considered.
It’s bad enough that cetaceans in aquariums are housed in tiny tanks instead of their vast ocean habitat, but that’s a whole different thing when they’re also used as entertainers in a theme park. Certainly, this type of “entertainment” has no place in the modern world, or in any other world that values animals as sentient beings. (To learn more about animal sensitivity laws, please see the ABC National | Recognize animals in Canada as sensitive.)
The criminal charge in Ontario arose following a police investigation based on allegations and complaints filed by animal groups including Animal Justice, Last Chance For Animals and whistleblowers alleging that dolphins and whales were being used illegally as artists without being explicitly authorized to do so as required by law.
In 2019, the Cetacean Code was amended in an effort to protect whales and dolphins so they don’t have to endure the horrific life of living in a small reservoir for entertainment or performing. The use of captive cetaceans for entertainment purposes without authorization under a license is contrary to s. 445.2 (4) of the Code could result in offenders being punished on summary conviction and liable to fines of up to $ 200,000.
More specifically, art. 445.2 (4) of the Code:
Anyone commits an offense who encourages, organizes, directs, assists, receives money or participates in a meeting, competition, exhibition, hobby, practice, exhibition or event in which or during which Captive cetaceans are used in Canada for entertainment purposes, unless the performance is authorized under a license issued by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of a province or by an authority of the province that may specify the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
Marineland denied the charge, stating Radio-Canada, “Our animal presentation contains marine mammals adopting behaviors that they exhibit in oceanic environments. These behaviors are combined with an instructional script delivered by Marineland staff, providing a foundation for understanding these important marine species.
On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2022, Marineland will appear at the Robert Welch courthouse in St. Catharines, Ont., To answer the charges. Many of us will witness this important matter unfolding.
A criminal charge against Marineland sent a strong signal of what is and is not tolerable when it comes to the way humans treat animals in Canada. Animals have intrinsic value and humans must recognize and protect that value. Humans must take responsibility for animals to ensure, at a minimum, that they are free from all forms of cruelty and exploitation, including being used as entertainers for entertainment. Animal welfare laws are hard fought for enactment, so once they are enacted we need to make sure they are enforced. The application of animal protection legislation is a start, an attempt to recognize the intrinsic rights of animals.
“As we move forward into the Roaring Twenties interest in legal issues affecting animals continues to grow and it is not just about dogs, cats, but wildlife, farm animals, animals. used in laboratories, slaughterhouses, animals used as artists, animals used for fur and in rodeos. These issues are interrelated. Animals are worthy of inherent rights ”(V. Victoria Shroff, Canadian Animal Act (LexisNexis 2021)).
V. Victoria Shroff is one of the earliest and oldest practitioners of animal law in Canada. She has practiced animal law for over 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and associates and she is an adjunct professor of animal law at the Allard School of Law at UBC and at Capilano University. She is recognized locally and internationally as an expert in animal law and is frequently interviewed by the media. His new book, Canadian Animal Act is now available in the LexisNexis Canada store. Reach her at [email protected], @shroffanimallaw Where LinkedIn.
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