What do Canadians consider ‘humane’?

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A young fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the Ottawa Valley spring sun.
Photo by gqxue / Getty Images
A new survey reveals that the treatment of animals is important to Canadians. But most Canadians would disagree with the characterization of many common practices towards animals as being “humane”.

The Fur-Bearers commissioned a national survey from February 24 to 26, 2023 measuring Canadians’ attitudes towards generally accepted practices involving animals, and whether these practices are considered “humane”. The results provide important insights into the public’s understanding of the word “humane” and creates opportunities for discussion involving the advancement of animal welfare in Canada.

The Fur-Bearers - Humane Survey Infographic
Click to expand infographic and view the results
Significantly, 87% of Canadians believe that animals are sentient. This is important as it demonstrates that the public understands that animals have more complex experiences than just physical states. With this understanding comes an ethical responsibility across public and private sectors to reduce animal suffering as much as possible, and this must include considerations beyond just the physical conditions and physical needs of animals.

Eighty-five percent of Canadians believe that the humane treatment of animals involves both physical and mental/psychological treatment, and 94% of Canadians say that it’s important to them that animals have their basic physical and psychological needs met. These shared understandings indicate the importance of treating animals humanely. But what does that entail and what does humane treatment look like?

Defining Humane

Many practices that involve animals used for clothing, food, entertainment, research, and other purposes are often described as humane, yet rarely is this word defined. The word humane is commonly used by governments, public agencies, media, industry associations, and animal protection advocates when discussing the treatment of animals. But the interpretation of what humane means differs drastically depending on who is using it, and for what purpose.
This survey reveals who Canadians trust most in defining the word humane and asks questions about generally accepted practices that are commonly labelled “humane” or “euthanasia”. The results of the survey shows that there is a disconnect between the language that public agencies and industries use when describing the treatment of animals, and what these words mean to Canadians.
This information provides a critical starting point to reflect on current practices in various sectors and improve the welfare of animals in Canada. Animal sentience is undeniable, this has been established in the scientific literature; the results of this survey demonstrates that the vast majority of Canadians agree. Because of this, there needs to be a thorough examination of how animals are treated, and a commitment to reduce and eliminate animal suffering across all sectors of society.

Click the button below to read the full results.

Results are based on an online study conducted by Research Co. from February 24 to February 26, 2023, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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