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My letter to Santa Claws | Victoria Shroff

Monday, December 23, 2019 @ 1:32 PM | By Victoria Shroff

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Victoria Shroff
Dear Animal Santy or equivalent for St. Lucia Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Solstice, Yalda, Christmas, Omisoka:

Let’s extend some protection to animals please. In this vein, I would appreciate it if you are reading this article to hold animals in your thoughts this season, not just your reindeer, but you should of course also make sure of their welfare before embarking on any flights, but let’s generally put all animals on the agenda.

Let this be the time for reflection on animals and animal kindness.

Not only has your dog Shin or your cat Claws been good to you all year, it’s time to think about those less fortunate. Too many animals are needlessly suffering. Shelters and rescues are full of unwanted, discarded, ill or elderly pets looking for their forever homes.

You could donate time or money if you feel it’s the right thing to do. But it’s not just companion animals who need help, it’s all animals and it’s a bigger picture thing. (Yes, bigger than purchasing consumer durables.)

I’ll make a list of a few things:

1. We need access to justice for animals because it makes sense for animals to be able to be free from pain and suffering and to be able to live their lives. We could start with five basic freedoms: Freedom from hunger and thirst. Freedom from pain, injury and disease. Freedom from distress. Freedom from discomfort. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

To realize these freedoms animals, les animaux, they need to have access to justice. We’ve already done this in law for corporations, so let’s think about ways to give access to justice for animals. Please check out my earlier piece, Access to justice for animals: It’s possible.

The vast majority of Canadians already treat their companion animals like family members, but in court, the family member turns into personal property, something instead of someone, a thing that is owned rather than a sentient being. Animals are property in the eyes of the law.

Perhaps the starting point to remedy this is legislation that better reflects current societal beliefs that animals are more than lumps of respirating property. I cannot imagine that anyone in 2019 would say that animals are not sentient, with feelings for joy, pain, kinship, comfort and love.

2. In September, I wrote that it was high time Canada banned cosmetic testing on animals

Because the makeup bill took too long to get ready for the big ball, the bill arrived too late in 2019, running out of time before Parliament rose for the break meaning that mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs and other hapless testing victims, will unfortunately have to wait while continuing to be unwitting cosmetic test subjects just so someone can wear that oh-so-precise shade of coral-sienna lip liner.

There was no need for this cosmetic bill to go splat.

As a nation, we did very well by animals in June 2019 with the passing of some very important animal welfare-oriented bills such as banning shark fins, bestiality, cetaceans in captivity, animal fighting. Since June, whenever I’ve presented on animal law or been discussing with my animal law students about how wonderfully well we did for animals in the spring, I mention the red sore spot — Bill S-214. The bill that should have passed, but instead failed animals in the Commons. (Please see Bill C-84 win for animals, but more is needed and Free Willy bill whale of a win for cetaceans.)

So let’s take another crack at passing a bill that bans cosmetic testing on animals in Canada.This should be an easy one.There are some 40 countries already ahead of us in the world that have managed it and there’s no earthly reason why we can’t join them.

3. Next, let’s look at reframing how we view animals. Back in 2018 I wrote about reframing the status of animals in Canadian law by looking at the dissent in Lucy the elephant’s case (Reece v. Edmonton 2011 ABCA 238). Please see Reframing the status of animals in Canadian law

Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, who wrote the powerful and broad reaching dissent stated: “Lucy’s case raises serious issues not only about how society treats sentient animals — those capable of feeling pain and thereby suffering at human hands — but also about the right of the people in a democracy.”

So, Santa or equivalent, if you’re listening or reading this list, please bring some much needed gifts to animals. Thank you from this Vancouver animal lawyer and Canadian animals. #A2JForAnimals

V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates (604-891-0209). She is also adjunct professor of law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC and has lectured internationally from India to Galiano Island and is frequently interviewed by media. Follow her at @shroffanimallaw or on LinkedIn. 

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