by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Some months ago a colleague asked me about the OSPCA (Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Act, proposed for Ontario, which, at the time, was being lauded in some quarters. My friend Lesli Bisgould, an animal rights lawyer, has done a short and informal critique, which is as follows:
It is disturbing and insupportable that the Bill introduces industry and other “generally accepted practice” exemptions, where none has existed before. This legislation is supposed to protect animals, not the people who harm them, whether for profit or pleasure. The latter have other legislation to rely on to defend their actions. If a person is in the course of an activity that is permitted by some other legislation, such as hunting for wildlife, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act authorizes the person’s behaviour and can be relied on in the hypothetical event there ever is any action taken against that person under the OSPCA Act. This is true in industry as well; food production, for example, is governed by numerous rules and details contained in statutes such as the Livestock Community Sales Act, the Livestock and Livestock Products Act, the Livestock Identification Act, the Livestock Medicines Act, the Livestock, Poultry and Honeybee Protection Act, and the Milk Act. This is just the Ontario legislation; voluminous federal legislation applies in many contexts as well. Similarly, the Animals for Research Act governs the use of animals in research. There is no need nor any justification for exemptions under the legislation that is supposed to be protecting animals; as currently worded, the proposed amendments take more than they give in terms of protecting the animals of Ontario.
That’s discouraging. The Bill has had first and second reading in provincial parliament. It is now up for discussion. There will be a meeting in Toronto, which I plan to attend, tentatively scheduled for July 3, to discuss this proposed legislation and what we should do about it.
I don’t know how it is in the States, but up here we seem to be cursed by having legislators at both higher levels of government who think that all they have to do is increase penalties, but see no reason to make it easier to earn convictions in the first place. This bill is good for instances of brutal, one-on-one cruelty ... dogs dragged behind cars, cats put in microwaves, sort of thing ... but I know of no proof that such random acts will be lessened by concerns about penalties. This act really solidifies the ability of people dealing with animals under any other legislation to abuse the animals to any degree they deem “necessary.”