Canada has some of the weakest animal protection laws in the developed world. Despite tireless work from advocates and animal protection organizations, industry groups have maintained a huge amount of control over MPs and Senators (and provincial legislators) for decades, making it all-but impossible to pass meaningful legal protection for animals at any level of government. A recent groundswell of support for animals has begun to reverse this trend, but laws that affect the highest numbers of animals – those covering animals farmed for food and fur – and the most significant federal law affecting animals, the Criminal Code of Canada, remain woefully lax.
Efforts to update the animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code have been ongoing for more than 20 years, with more than two dozen attempts being introduced as government bills, and privately by numerous MPs and Senators since 1999. While some of these bills came close to passing, the farming, hunting and fishing industries have ultimately always been able to convince legislators to reject meaningful changes. As a result, no significant updates have been made to the animal cruelty sections of the Criminal Code since the 1950s.
The government has failed to regulate farmed animal welfare in Canada. For most of their lives, farmed animals have no federal protections and are exempt from almost all provincial animal protection laws. The only federal laws and regulations applied to farmed animals cover transport and slaughter, and are notoriously weak.
Animal protection advocates have tried to improve farmed animal transport regulations for decades. In 2019, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) finally updated their federal animal transport regulations, but the new standards failed to meet even the most fundamental requirements that have long been law in other jurisdictions and which are widely supported by science. Animals can still be trucked in open-sided vehicles for days at a time without food, rest, and water—including in freezing cold and blistering hot temperatures.
Canada still allows the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth, the East Coast commercial seal hunt, subsidizing the slaughter even though many other countries have banned seal fur imports. As other countries ban the practice of farming animals for fur, Canada has continued to support this cruel industry, providing subsidies and support for fur farmers, despite well-documented egregious welfare standards and devastating environmental impacts. Indeed, Canada has failed to even ban the trade of cat and dog fur, with these products having been found in Canadian stores.
A bill which proposed a ban on cosmetic testing on animals was widely supported by Canadians and legislators, but failed to pass through Parliament in 2019, leaving Canada behind other developed countries which have banned this practice.
The most effective way to improve federal protections for animals in Canada is to elect representatives who will champion these causes on Parliament Hill. Animal Justice is proud to endorse candidates who will support bringing Canadian animal protection legislation in line with Canadian values and into the 21st century.