An Open Door to Animal Rights

An Open Door to Animal Rights

December 03, 2020

Last month Senator Murray Sinclair opened a door that’s an interesting one for those of us who are following animal rights issues.

 And, a big door, it is. Big enough for an elephant to walk through.

Senator Sinclair has teamed up with famed primatologist Jane Goodall to propose new legislation that would ban the import of ivory, and place new restrictions on the captivity of great apes and elephants. If approved, the bill would ban new captivity for apes and elephants and prohibit using those animals in shows and performances.

Here in Edmonton, this proposed legislation brings to mind the sorrowful and tragic story of Lucy, the Asian elephant who’s been kept in a solitary setting at the Edmonton Valley Zoo most of her life, with no interaction with other animals, let alone with elephants.

For Lucy’s sake alone, although it’s likely far too late for her, Senator Sinclair’s bill deserves a long and thoughtful look. And in doing so, it begs the follow-up question: are there other areas of animal rights issues that need addressing as well?

It would appear that Boris Johnson’s UK Conservatives think there are.

In the lead up to the last UK election, our British friends launched their “Animal Welfare Action Plan”, which took a four-step approach to better protecting the rights of animals: banning having primates as pets; introducing better microchipping of cats; banning trophy hunting of endangered species; and finally - and most relevant to animal rights advocates in Canada -  banning the export of live animals for the purpose of fattening or slaughter.

Federal regulations in Canada today allow the transport of live horses to Japan, South Korea and the EU where they are slaughtered and used primarily for sushi. In France, raw horse meat is served up as a hamburger patty with a fried egg on it, known as “hamburger œuf à cheval”.

A strong and very visible campaign to stop this practice of shipping live horses overseas for slaughter is being led by a group called the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition. It’s engaged in legal action against the federal government for what it claims is violation of animal transportation laws.  You can learn more about this case and the CHDC efforts by checking out the CHDC website here.

And, what you’ll learn or see is not pretty. These horses are apparently jammed, three or four at a time, into packing crates meant for single horses. They’re then loaded onto a cargo plane without food or water for a flight from Vancouver or Winnipeg to Japan, South Korea or the EU that can last up to 13 hours.

Factoring in pre-flight prepping and loading and final arrival time at the slaughterhouse at their destination, these horse are likely looking at 24 hours in the crates, without food and water and in cramped, highly stressful conditions. Here’s a pic taken from the CHDC website purporting to show a load of horses in crates prior to boarding a flight to Asia.  

The CHDC is in a tough fight, believe it or not. It’s appealing a court ruling from last year that says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which oversees the shipping of these horses, has wide discretion in the enforcement of its own regulations.

But it gets worse. The United States banned this practice in 2007. So Americans are sending horses through Canada for export to Asia and Europe.

So, Canada still exports live horse for slaughter nearly 15 years after the US banned it, and as the UK is in the process of banning as well. What gives?

If nominated to carry the Conservative flag in Edmonton Strathcona in the next election, and if elected as MP, I’ll be looking carefully at where I can help advance sensible animal rights legislation on the federal playing field.

“Now, hold it, Peterson,” one might say. “Aren’t you a duck hunter? How do you square animal rights legislation with that? And aren’t you a meat eater? And a rodeo fan, to boot?”

Yes, I am. All of the above. There is a clear line, though, marking the difference between eating animals for their protein or shooting animals for sport under provincial and federal guidelines for conservation and preservation, and abusing animals for our entertainment.

Ask any bull rider or horseback rider in any rodeo in Western Canada, and they will tell you that the care and protection of the livestock there is absolutely stellar. And they’re right. It is.

The flagrant abuses of animal rights in Canada don’t happen in rodeos or livestock transports. They happen in zoos and in airports across our country, right under our noses. With support from federal laws.

That’s not right. Most Canadians agree. The CHDC says more than 2/3rds of Canadians support a ban on live horse exports for slaughter. It’s hard to imagine a majority of Canadians in favour of keeping elephants in solitary confinement.

Let’s give Senator Murray’s bill a long, hard look. And let’s expand our vision, as Canadians and as Conservatives, to embrace policy issues affecting sentient creatures, who are powerless and under our control.

Let’s use our voices to open a door that can lead to giving them a voice, too. It’s the right thing to do.


- Rick Peterson


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