Heal Our Planet Earth
Universities back new animal cruelty bill

Proposed law poses no threat to research, institutions say after years of fighting Ottawa's attempts

Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2008

OTTAWA -- After years of fighting federal bills to toughen animal cruelty laws, academia is putting its support behind a version that universities say would not pose a threat to legitimate animal research.

The House of Commons justice committee is wrapping up public hearings on the latest reincarnation, following a decade of several failed attempts to rewrite a 116-year-old law that made it a crime to abuse animals.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the national umbrella group for post-secondary institutions, says it no longer fears that an anti-cruelty bill would make potential criminals out of researchers who are trying to conduct ethical animal-based testing.

Chickens are shown at a research facility. Universities had feared that an anti-cruelty bill would make criminals out of researchers working ethically. Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Universities and colleges had opposed previous attempts since 1999, partly because animals would cease to be considered property under the Criminal Code and they would have stronger, specific protection in their own right.

"Such changes could have led to unfounded allegations of misconduct against universities and university researchers, and frivolous and unwarranted private prosecutions under the Criminal Code by individuals and organizations for whom no use of animal research is acceptable," the association says in a recent written brief to the justice committee.

The latest bill has traveled an unusual path -- originating in the Senate rather than the House of Commons. The legislative proposal, like the original bill introduced by the Liberal government in 1999, would increase criminal penalties for people who abuse animals.

If convicted, abusers could receive a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, up from the current maximum punishment of six months in prison and a $2,000 fine.

Universities and colleges say the newest version is a "carefully tailored and reasoned solution" that avoids "serious damage to the reputations of universities and to individual faculty members who are conducting important animal-based testing and research in a highly ethical and responsible manner."

The bill was introduced by Liberal Senator John Bryden, who tabled identical legislation two years ago that did not make it as far as public hearing at the Commons justice committee, one of the final stages before a bill goes to MPs for a final vote.

Bryden's bill has the support of the governing Conservatives, who opposed former Liberal bills to modernize animal-cruelty laws, amid fierce opposition from researchers, farmers, aboriginals and hunters. Two Liberal bills passed in the Commons, but they were blocked in the Senate.

Liberal MP Mark Holland is waiting to introduce his own private member's bill, which effectively revives past Liberal legislation. Among other things, Holland opposes a section of Bryden's bill that requires "wilful negligence" rather than simple "negligence" in harming animals, an accusation that he said is too difficult to prove.

Holland, who intends to hold a news conference with animal-welfare groups and a "survivor" of animal cruelty today on Parliament Hill, says Bryden's bill is "worse than nothing" because its passage would ensure that Canada's law remains in the dark ages for years to come.

"Can you imagine the House of Commons passing an animal welfare bill that has every major animal-welfare group opposed to it?" he asked. "It is unbelievable that the House would do such a thing."

Return to Articles

Home Page


What's New

Preserving Earth's Biodiversity




Terminate the Canadian Seal Massacre

Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE)

Deep-Rural-India Expeditions

Educational Outreach

Undercover Operations

Media Events

International Conferences

Omniscientific Cosmology and Integrative Transcendence

About Anthony Marr




Contact Us and Donate

Your Comments and Inquiries are Welcome


This site is hosted and maintained by
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation.