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  • Keri-Lynn Turney

Animal Justice Leads Fight in Animal Protection

Executive Director of Animal Justice and one of the country's leading animal rights lawyers, Camille Labchuk explains "Our country's approach has been to let industries make up their own rules for using animals, for the most part."

The organization's mission to overhaul the legal system to better reflect our country's values of compassion and justice for all, is a tall order. Tackling issues like dolphin and whale captivity, shark finning, puppy mills and more, the Animal Justice team is made up of passionate lawyers and advocates.

In addition to their work to challenge ag gag laws, Labchuk says Animal Justice is also working for "national farmed animal protection laws, the closure of all Canadian fur farms, and a ban on torturous poisons" (such as strychnine) used to kill wild animals.

Ag gag? What's that?

The agricultural gag (ag gag) laws Labchuk speaks of are meant to prevent whistleblowers, undercover journalists and activists from exposing animal cruelty on farms, slaughterhouses and transport trucks. Besides that these laws are impeding Canadian's rights to freedom of expression and to peacefully protest as guaranteed under our constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they also make it nearly impossible for concerned citizens to take photos or videos of the often horrific treatment that takes place in an industry that doesn't regulate animal welfare. Ontario and Alberta already have these laws in place, and Manitoba and Quebec aren't far behind.

These laws go so far as making it illegal to give water to farmed animals without permission of the "owner", even animals that are clearly dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from heat exhaustion. The penalties are stiff. Under Bill 62 proposed in Manitoba, an individual who gives food or water to a farmed animal could be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to one year. Also appalling is that this sentence is twice as long as a first-time offender convicted of animal abuse under Manitoba’s Animal Care Act! This has to change.

Animal Justice is suing the Ontario government over the unconstitutionality of ag gag laws. While this issue alone could be enough to keep them busy, the hard-working group has had many victories, including playing a key role in helping pass legislation to outlaw the captivity of whales and dolphins across the country in 2019, "ensuring these majestic animals receive the protections they deserve," says Labchuk.

Why do animals need lawyers?

"The law is one of our most powerful tools to make social change, and lawyers are uniquely positioned to push for stronger laws, ensure industries that illegally abuse animals are held accountable, and represent animals' interests in courtrooms across the country."

Although cruelty to animals is widespread in industries involving relying on creatures big and small, Labchuk says "most Canadians are kind, compassionate people and we assume that the government is looking out for animals and protecting them from abuse." Unfortunately, she says, that's not usually the case. "Canada doesn't regulate on-farm animal welfare conditions, and we have no national legislation to protect animals in labs, and no national rules restricting the exotic pet trade." Animal Justice aims to give animals a voice in Canadian courtrooms.

How you can get involved

Do you care about what happens to animals in our country? Join Animal Justice's e-news list to learn about animal protection initiatives and how you can help.

Animal Justice also hosts the Animal Justice Academy, a six-week online advocacy course that empowers people to get active and make change for animals, featuring more than 80 teachers/speakers. Whether you are new to animal advocacy or have been involved for a long time this boot camp offers something for everyone. It starts with offering a solid foundation in animal issues, moves on to advocacy, engaging in the political system, exposing animal exploitation, expanding your influence and engaging media, and empowering yourself as an advocate.

As well, you can check out the Paw and Order Podcast, covering timely issues such as the ethics of getting vaccines that have been tested on animals.

To find out more visit ANIMAL JUSTICE

As well, you can check out the Paw and Order Podcast, covering timely issues such as the ethics of getting vaccines that have been tested on animals.


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