By guest blogger Camille Labchuk
If you care about animals, there’s one clear choice in this election: the Green Party.
Why? It’s simple. Try doing a search for the word “animal” in the platforms of the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP or Bloc Quebecois. You won’t have any luck. None of the traditional political parties even mentions animals in their election platforms, which should not be surprising given the lack of importance these parties place on animal issues between elections in Parliament.
The Green Party, on the other hand, is committed to building a society where animals are treated humanely and with respect and dignity at all times. We are the only party with strong and detailed animal protection policies. In our comprehensive election platform document, Vision Green, we have entire sections on animal welfare, the commercial seal kill, and whaling. Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been a vegetarian for decades, deputy leader Georges Laraque is a noted animal activist, and a great number of our active members care deeply about animal protection issues.
The Greens recognize that the animals that humans eat, use in science, hunt, trap and exploit in various ways do not exist just to be used by human beings. We want a world where animals are not seen as mere tools, property, and units of economic production, but are seen as capable of experiencing pain and suffering just like we do. We want a world where animals’ interests are protected.
Unfortunately, the laws that protect animals in Canada are few and far between. Our farming practices are among the least humane of industrialized countries. The animal cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code have not been meaningfully updated since 1892. Animal research and testing goes unregulated in much of the country. And every spring, the ice on Canada’s East Coast runs red with the blood of baby seals killed in the commercial seal hunt.
The Green Party would introduce animal welfare legislation to ensure farm animals live without undue stress and in conditions where they can engage in normal behaviours. We would phase out cruel factory farming practices, with stringent standards governing the living conditions of farm animals, their transport, slaughter, and sale at auction. We would dedicate more funds to monitoring and enforcement to ensure violations do not go unnoticed and unpunished.
We also advocate for reduced meat consumption as a way to combat climate change and protect human health. To help accomplish this, we would end government subsidies to factory farms and tax animal products produced by those farms. This will create a level market for small farmers, allowing consumers to make choices that are better for their health and animal welfare.
The Greens would also strengthen the Criminal Code to redefine animals not as mere property but as sentient beings. We would amend the language of the Code to close loopholes and ensure prosecutors are better able to charge and pursue those who abuse or neglect animals. We would make it an offence to kill any animal without a lawful reason, and ensure those who harm animals are subject to appropriately severe penalties, including a lifetime ban on animal ownership for those convicted of the worst offences. Polling clearly shows that Canadians strongly support better laws for animals in our Criminal Code, and it’s appalling that the parties presently in Parliament have failed to act.
We would overhaul the currently weak regime governing animal testing and research in Canada, end the most egregious forms of use, prohibit the use of animals in science where a non-animal method is reasonably available, and work with the international community to identify alternatives to animal use.
The Greens are committed to protecting wildlife, and would enhance the presently toothless Species at Risk Act to ensure species protection decisions are left to scientists, and not to the discretion of politically motivated ministers. We recognize that animal populations are facing increasing environmental threats, including habitat loss and climate change, and that commercial trade in wild animal parts poses a further threat to these animals. The Greens prioritize non-consumptive enjoyment of wildlife and natural areas, and we recognize that ecotourism activities like bird and whale watching, hiking and camping can also contribute far more to our economy than consumptive use.
The Greens have long stood as the only federal political party in opposition to the commercial seal hunt, on the grounds that it is inhumane, a waste of tax dollars, damaging to our international reputation, and ecologically destructive. Veterinarians have clearly said the annual kill causes great suffering to baby seals, 97% of whom are less than 3 months old when killed. Climate change is causing the glacial habitat of the seals to melt from underneath them, resulting in high seal pup mortality that places further pressure on sensitive populations. And the cost of subsidizing the seal hunt comes in at many millions of dollars more than its landed value. Meanwhile, countries around the world are closing their borders to products of commercial sealing as citizens become aware of the unfortunate practice. The Green Party would end the hunt, buy out sealing licenses, and promote seal-watching ecotourism initiatives. Ecotourism has the potential to bring in far more money for coastal communities while protecting seals and the ecosystem.
Finally, the Greens would create a Parliamentary Committee on Animal Welfare to ensure ongoing monitoring and improvement of animal protection law and policy in Canada.
This is just a snapshot of the many detailed policies the Green Party has to protect animals. Full details can be found on our website by following these links:
So when you cast your ballot on May 2, consider this: who would animals vote for? The answer is obvious: the Green Party.It’s a matter of national shame that political parties have been silent on animal issues. Only the Greens acknowledge the dire strait of Canadian law as it relates to animal protection, and we are strongly committed to working in Parliament to bring Canada’s animal protection legislation into the 21st century. But we need Green MPs first, so we hope you will vote Green and help us elect MPs, including Green leader Elizabeth May in Saanich–Gulf Islands, BC.