Fluked, furry, winged creatures in spotlight as animal law expands

By V. Victoria Shroff

Law360 Canada (March 2, 2023, 12:10 PM EST) --
Victoria Shroff
V. Victoria Shroff
There is a furry flurry of activity in Canadian animal law right now.

Some animal law issues making headlines (and not for favourable reasons) include Lucy the Elephant stuck in the freezing Edmonton Zoo, a slaughterhouse under scrutiny in B.C., the Canadian dog import ban, octopus farming and the overdue ban on live shipments of horses overseas for slaughter.

In good animal law news, we have a near end to cosmetic testing on animals, Smooshi has moved overseas and the Paisley Irregulars are sponsoring an essay contest on the global influence of M’Alister (or Donoghue) v. Stevenson.

Lucy the elephant

I’ve written and spoken about lonely Lucy at length. (Please see: Animal law: An elephantine case to consider.) Sadly, legal challenges launched on Lucy’s behalf have not succeeded, and she remains the sole elephant in the Edmonton Valley Zoo. An investigation is underway following a complaint to Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) by Animal Justice following the zoo’s admission that its conditions were deficient, that nearly $11 million was needed from the city coffers to address issues including safety of staff, patrons and animals.

A budget document notes that the zoo could potentially lose its accreditation and may need to close its doors if the Edmonton city council does not approve money for “animal enclosure renewal and enhancement.” (See Zoo money, zoo problems: Edmonton’s facility needs $11M to repair ‘major deficiencies’. Notably, the budget outlines that Lucy’s barn requires upgrades and enrichment amenities. Other animals confined in the zoo are affected as well. Breaches of not only zoo standards set by CAZA could be involved, but there may well be municipal and provincial law enforcement issues to be addressed relating to animal welfare.

We have a duty to protect animals. Seeing Lucy still stuck in the zoo reminds us why we need to strengthen our animal laws and finally pass the groundbreaking Jane Goodall Act for animal protection. (For more details on this important proposed legislation, see Canada’s game-changing Jane Goodall Act: Global rise of sentience.)

B.C. slaughterhouse under scrutiny

Dreadful and heartbreaking video footage was released in the media in February 2023 depicting alleged horrors faced by animals inside a small B.C. slaughterhouse, near Vancouver. The video footage was sent to Animal Justice seemingly depicting horrible treatment of sheep being whacked with paddles, cows stung with electric prods, animals pinned to the floor and more.

The video also seems to show that some animals were not rendered insensible meaning that they could likely feel the pain of being slaughtered. Though sentient animals are killed for human consumption, at the very least, animals should not be abused, or cut into if still conscious. Animal Justice filed complaints requesting investigation into allegations of violations of the laws relating to meat inspection, federal health of animal regulations, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food meat inspection program, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and breaches of B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The B.C. SPCA is reviewing the matter. Senior B.C. SPCA protection officer, Eileen Drever, described the footage as “very disturbing” and “(The animals) are suffering physically, but they’re also suffering psychologically ... .” Review is also underway via at B.C.’s minister of agriculture and food. (See Protesters gather in Vancouver after secret video allegedly reveals actions of animal cruelty at B.C. slaughterhouse.)

At a minimum, we should have cameras installed in slaughterhouses to help halt animal suffering and violations.

Rescue dog import ban

Recently in Parliament, Conservative MP Rempel Garner presented Petition E-4122 calling for the end of rescue dog ban, regarding the federal government’s rescue dog import ban from approximately 100 countries. The petition calls on the Canadian government to work with stakeholders to ensure animal health and safety while not quashing the rescue of desperate overseas animals such as dogs who are victims of the meat trade. Our national Canadian Animal Law Study Group added its voice, writing to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to reconsider its blanket ban due to unjust and dire consequences for animals.  

Octopus farming and e-petition 4312

Farming octopuses is riddled with humane and ethical concerns. Many in the animal, environmental law and scientific community rightly denounce the idea of industrial cephalopod farms as unjust.

Octopuses are highly intelligent sentient beings in need of protection (Please see Opinion: Consider the octopus, and how it could challenge our ideas about meat.)

In 2023, an e-petition was launched for the federal government to ban the breeding and raising of octopuses in captivity and to ban the importation of farmed cephalopod products from factory farms. Canada could theoretically become the first country to ban octopus farming and send a strong global message that cephalopods can and should be legally protected. (Petition here.)

Overseas shipment of live horses for slaughter

It is past time to operationalize the federal agriculture minister’s mandate and fulfil the 2021 election promise to end the inhumane live air export of Canadian horses who are shipped overseas and slaughtered. Advocacy groups have been working for years to bring an end to the inhumane practice, but horses are still being regularly shipped out on long flights overseas and then slaughtered for food. (Please see some of the problematic issues related to live animal export here: Live animal export en route to slaughter inhumane )

Cosmetic testing on animals

“There is no good reason for Canada not to have already legislated a ban on the use of animals in cosmetic testing.” (Canadian Animal Law (Lexis Nexis 2021, Shroff, V.) Though long overdue, Canada may finally join 40 plus nations in bringing an end to cosmetic testing on animals in 2023. (See High time Canada banned cosmetic testing on animals | Victoria Shroff ). Health Canada announced that it is working on changes to the Federal Food and Drugs Act.

The federal government is also considering ways to reduce toxicity testing on animals and reduce reliance on animals, which would be a huge win for millions of hapless lab animals. (See Canada to ban cosmetic testing on animals.)  

Smooshi the walrus moves to new home

Following years of advocacy for Smooshi’s welfare, Smooshi the walrus kept in Ontario’s Marineland, has recently been shifted with her calf Koyuk, to a better and new facility at Sea World Abu Dhabi.

Ideally, animals should not be entertainers, but Phil Demers, Smooshi’s former trainer who has been front and centre in Smooshi’s struggle for a decade, tweeted how pleased he is as Canada now no longer has any captive walruses.  

Famed snail

The famed snail who featured in the case of M’Alister (or Donoghue) v. Stevenson revolutionized tort law forever and has inspired legions of lawyers and judges over the years. I posit that the snail in the bottle case was also an animal law and access to justice case. (Please see: Donoghue v. Stevenson anniversary conference May 26 will ‘hail the snail’.)

I was recently honoured with an invitation (honoris causa) to join the Paisley Irregulars, an informal group of lawyer and judges founded by the Martin Taylor, KC. The Irregulars will be meeting soon to chat about law, snails and ginger beer, and we also have a student essay competition currently running on the global influence of Donoghue. Contest information found here.

There will be updates and more to ponder about the treatment of the fluked, furry and winged under the law in Canada, including animals in heated pet custody cases, dogs on death row, animals on factory farms, emotional support animals, pets in condos and orca proclamations just to name a few. Stay tuned.

V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law for over 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates; she is erstwhile adjunct professor of animal law at UBC’s Allard School of Law and faculty, Capilano University. Shroff is recognized locally and internationally as an animal law expert and is frequently interviewed by media. Her new book, Canadian Animal Law is now available at LexisNexis Canada store. Reach her at shroffandassociates@gmail.com, @shroffanimallaw or LinkedIn

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

Photo credit / L Feddes ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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