Animal Welfare Laws; Small Change Leads to Big Progress
by CherryBlossom on March 8, 2016 - 7:53am
Whether animals should have rights is a subject of discussion that is still very present to this day. Many people believe that some should have rights, which is why in many places around the world laws to protect domesticated animals have been put in place. Québec has very recently joined the “elite” that includes France, Switzerland, Germany and many more countries that are protecting certain animals. Why did Québec take so long to recognize animals? This essay will discuss why and how animal laws develop in some regions focusing on Québec and Zurich.
On December 4th 2015, the National assembly of Québec officially recognized animals as being sentient beings. The new bill 54 “requires that pets receive care consistent with their biological needs”(Canadian Press). This bill concerns domesticated animals only and fails to protect exotic and farm animals.
Why is it suddenly important for Québec to improve their animal welfare laws? Do Québec pets even need them? It turns out that the bill 54 is essential because Québec has the reputation of being “one of the best places to be an animal abuser”(Ouellet). Statistics have shown that on average half a million pets are abandoned every year, which is the highest count in North America (Ross). Most of these abandoned pets finish their lives in a refuge where 80% are euthanized because they are over crowded. Furthermore, Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis also mentioned that Québec “is considered the puppy-mill capital of the continent” (Canadian Press). Nearly 4 000 000 puppies are “produced” annually in the province’s 1800 mills, which are then sold across the country, and even in the United States (ross). In her article, Annie Ross compares the statistics between France and Québec pet abandon and concludes that although the France population is eight times greater to ours, they abandon five times less their pets than we Quebecers do.
Hopefully, the new bill will help alleviate the poor conditions of domesticated animals in Québec. Before the appearance of this legislation, the province of Québec had the least strict animal-welfare rules in North America [which gave animals] the same legal rights as a piece of furniture”. Starting from December 4th 2015, offenders can now be charged fines ranging from 250$ to 250 000$. Fines can go much higher for repeated offenders and they can even be sentenced to a maximum of 18 months in prison (Canadian Press).
Québec’s bad reputation seemed to have led the parliament to achieve this drastic change in perception. However, it was not the only source of influence. They where also submitted to “peer pressure” as their neighboring provinces, Manitoba, Ontario and British Colombia are known to have some of the strongest animal-welfare laws in the country”. The fact that France recently changed their animal laws as well, in January 2015, has also played a key role in influencing our current legislation state on animals (Canadian Press).
Interestingly, on March 9th 2010, a few years before the Bill 54 was passed, Dr. Antoine F. Goetschel, the first animal lawyer gave a public speech at the Faculty of Law at McGill University concerning whether animals should be allowed to have a legislative voice (McGill Publications). His “job consists of enforc[ing] the Swiss Federal Animal Protection Act, enacted in 2008 [which is] considered by proponents of animal rights to be the world’s most progressive”(McGill Publications).
Zurich is the only canton in Switzerland that has an appointed lawyer to represent the animals’ voices in court. Annually, Dr. Antoine F. Goetschel works on 150 to 180 cases from which 60% to 70 % concern dogs that have been mistreated (Leybold-Johnson). In an interview with swissinfo, Goetschel said that he was being informed at the beginning of case investigations and assured that proof had been collected and witnesses questioned. Most importantly, he can influence the final “punishment by comparing it with other cases”(Leybold-Johnson).
In 1992, Goetschel participated in the change of the Swiss constitution. He says that “Switzerland is the only place worldwide which protects animals' dignity both in the constitution and in legislation” and hopes that other countries will be influenced by Swiss’ solutions (Leybold-Johnson).
Although no other canton in Switzerland has an animal welfare attorney, Antoine F. Goetschel vision of “solidarity to protect [the animals] interests, lives and wellbeing” has influenced others across the world (Leybold-Johnson). He started as the first animal lawyer but many succeeded after him. In Toronto, McCague Borlack LLP firm has an Animal Law Practice Group (McCague Borlack LLP), in Vancouver, associate counsel Rebeka Breder practices animal law as well and these are only a few examples (boughton law).
In his interview Antoine F. Goetschel said “there have been around 5,800 criminal cases of abuse in the last 25 years in Switzerland” (Leybold-Johnson). This demonstrates the importance of having strict animal welfare laws and lawyers to represent the abused animals across the world.
When it comes to animal welfare, a small local change such as Antoine F. Goetschel being the first ever-animal lawyer in Zurich can have a big effect. Not only did he influence other lawyer’s vocations, he may have also contributed in influencing the animal laws in several countries and regions notably the new Québec bill 54 by speaking at the McGill University law students. Small changes in one region can influence a change in another, which in total add up to being a big progress. Québec’s animal welfare laws have been influenced by the laws of other Canadian provinces and at the end, this makes Canada as a whole more progressive.
To conclude, I am trilled that Québec now has concrete regulations for punishing pet abusers. However, I believe that it is not enough to protect domesticated animals only. Farm animals such as pigs, cows, goats and horses are mistreated every day. Horses that pull the carriages in Montreal are forced to work in horrible conditions and they should not be excluded from the list of protected Québec species. Moreover, every summer in Sainte-Perpétue there is a pig festival where people run after pigs in an arena and try to force rings around their necks. There is also a contest to see which owner’s horse will be able to pull the most weight. I think that it is hypocrite to protect certain animals and not others on the behalf of personal pleasure. To address this issue I think that first, horse drawn carriages should be banned as well as the pig festival and second, Québec animal welfare laws should extend to farm animals too.
Canadian Press. “Quebec passes animal protection law.” The Star. Web. December 04 2015.
Ouellet, Martin. “Quebec Civil Code Amendment Would Redefine Animals As Living, 'Sentient' Creatures.”. The Huffington Post. Web. August 09 2014.
Ross, Annie. “Les Québécois, de mauvais «parents» pour les animaux?.” Magazine Animal; Canoe.ca. Web. June 05 2011.
“The world’s only public lawyer for animals.” McGill Publications. Law| Focus online. Web. Winter 2010
Leybold-Johnson, Isobel. “Lawyer lends his voice to the animals.”Swissinfo. Web. January 25 2009.
“Rebeka Breder”. Boughtonlaw. Web
“Animal Law”. McCague Borlack. Web