Since 1999, the federal Liberals have made numerous attempts to pass a much-needed update to the antiquated and inadequate animal cruelty provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada. There was Bill C-17, resurrected as Bill C-15 and then re-introduced as Bill C-15B, followed by Bill C-10, Bill C-10B, Bill C-22, Bill C-50, Bill C-274, Bill C-277 and, finally, Bill C-610. While the House of Commons has passed new animal cruelty legislation three times, those bills either got caught up in prorogues or were blocked by the Senate before they made it past the finish line.
But the winds of change are sweeping through Canada, giving us a renewed sense of possibility and hope about what we can accomplish together. As so many have said since the federal election in October, "Canada is back!" And Canada wants change for animals. The Canadian people have been signing animal welfare petitions for decades now, demanding that the values of fairness and justice that we're known for are applied to the protection of animals and the punishment of animal abusers.
It's extremely difficult to prosecute cases of neglect and dog fighting because of how the laws are written.
We may just get our wish. On February 26, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith introduced a private member's bill that aims to close the loopholes in the current animal cruelty provisions. More often than not, it is these loopholes that allow chronic hoarders, repeat abusers, puppy mill operators and dog fighting perpetrators to get off with a slap on the wrist.
Canada is widely considered to be a progressive, civilized country with plenty of laws on the books to protect its citizens from various forms of violence, disorderly conduct and theft. But it has a dismal record when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Due to outdated language, the current animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code offer greater protection for cattle and other working animals and much less protection for wild or stray animals. It's extremely difficult to prosecute cases of neglect and dog fighting because of how the laws are written.
For example, the phrase "willful neglect" in Section 446 of the Criminal Code requires proof that the accused intended to harm or kill his or her animal(s). Even in cases where dozens of animals have been starved to death -- which requires a long period of severe neglect -- judges conclude that the accused didn't actually intend for the animals to suffer or die. This is why so many abusers are found not guilty. On top of this, a recent appeal from a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal seriously weakened the Criminal Code offence of bestiality. Instead of ensuring that all sexual abuse of animals remains illegal, the Court of Appeal ruled that only the penetration of animals is an offence.
So why does this new bill, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, hold such promise? The heart of it -- where CFHS sees real potential for change -- is the proposed creation of a new offence for individuals who cause unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal through gross negligence of the animal's welfare. The bill also closes the loopholes related to animal fighting by making it illegal to train, breed or convey animals for the purpose of fighting, as well as making it illegal to profit from dog fighting. And Bill C-246 aims to update section 160 of the Criminal Code to ensure that all forms of sexual abuse of animals remain illegal.
There is a strong and sustained will on the part of the Canadian people to see that justice be done for animals in this country. If we all work together and raise our voices in support of this bill, the change that animals need will be possible. Go here to contact your MP and tell them to support Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act.
This blog has been updated.
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In 2011, more than 80 percent of antibiotics produced were fed to livestock. Although some of these drugs were necessary to keep animals healthy in conditions that would otherwise make them sick, like living on top of one another's waste, most of it was specifically administered to artificially increase rapid growth. While it may seem like these drugs could be inadvertently protecting consumers from disease, they are actually contributing to the terrifying rise of superbugs -- deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria that thrive and multiply in the absence of weaker microbes.
According to one study, 65 percent of all hogs tested had pneumonia-like lesions on their lungs. Researchers believe this is due to ammonia and other gases released from the massive amounts of manure that the animals come into contact with every day.
In 2009, Mercy For Animals went undercover at a Hy-Line Iowa egg factory and discovered that baby chickens who were of no egg-laying use to the buyers (read: male chicks), were put on a conveyor belt and sent directly to a grinder. Hy-Line defended this practice by insisting that it was industry standard.
While cows can live naturally to about twenty years old, many dairy cows living in factory farms are sent to slaughter before they reach the age of five. Though cows can naturally remain productive for 12-15 years, the intensive conditions of industrial dairies can take a toll on their health.
Every year, millions of sows are kept in cages called "gestation crates," a cost-cutting measure that keeps the pregnant pigs immobilized. The concrete floors beneath the crates are often slatted so that manure can just slip through into huge pits. After spending a full four-month pregnancy in these gestation crates, the sows often suffer from abscesses, sores and ulcers. However, even when the pigs are released from the crates, they are not living a comfortable life: The uneven floors of the hog houses have been proven to cause leg and feet deformities.
Notoriously mistreated, veal calves are often forced to wear heavy chains to keep them from becoming overactive in their stalls. The calves are also kept in near or total darkness and suffer from forced anemia, for no reason other than to keep their flesh pale and attractive.
"Battery cages," the common living space for more than 90 percent of egg-laying hens in America, provide as little as 0.6 square feet of space per hen. That is smaller than a regular sized sheet of paper.
Citing health reasons and worker comfort, a majority of U.S. farms practice tail docking, the act of removing the tails of livestock by burning, emasculating, or constricting the tail with an elastic band. This practice causes pain, stress, and sometimes infection in the cows, which is why it has been outlawed in a number of countries, such as New Zealand. However, California is the only U.S. state where tail docking is illegal.
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