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Court Strikes Down Ontario SPCA Law Enforcement Regime as Unconstitutional

Animal Justice January 3, 2019

OTTAWA—An Ontario court has struck down the province’s animal protection law enforcement regime, declaring that it is unconstitutional for the Ontario SPCA—as a private charity not subject to reasonable oversight measures—to enforce public animal protection laws. The Superior Court decision was released yesterday in Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Ontario, a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s provincial animal welfare laws and the way they are enforced.

The decision recognized a new principle of fundamental justice, declaring that under section 7 the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is unconstitutional for the province to assign police and other investigative powers to a law enforcement agency not subject to reasonable standards of transparency and accountability. The Ontario SPCA is not subject to freedom of information laws or the Police Services Act that apply to other law enforcement bodies.

Animal Justice, a national animal law organization, intervened in the case to argue that enforcement agencies must be accountable and transparent to ensure animals benefit from legal protections. Animal Justice shared many of the applicant’s concerns over the transparency, oversight, and accountability of animal law enforcement. The court agreed with Animal Justice’s contention, noting, “Overall, the OSPCA appears to be an organization that operates in a way that is shielded from public view while at the same time fulfilling clearly public functions. As stated by the intervener, although charged with law enforcement responsibilities, the OSPCA is opaque, insular, unaccountable, and potentially subject to external influence, and as such Ontarians cannot be confident that the laws it enforces will be fairly and impartially administered.”

The Court suspended the declaration of invalidity for 12 months to give the province time to devise a new animal protection regime, stating it would be “an untenable result” if a void of enforcement compromised animal protection even for a transitional period.

The Court also considered whether Ontario SPCA search and seizure powers were too broad, and whether provincial animal protection offences are truly criminal in nature and fall outside provincial jurisdiction, but found that powers and jurisdiction were both appropriate. In particular, the court adopted Animal Justice’s argument that search and seizure powers must be robust because of the importance of protecting animals, who are often kept behind closed doors and cannot report abuse themselves.

“Animal protection laws are the only laws still enforced by private agencies, and the court ruled that private enforcement without transparency and accountability is unacceptable,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice.” Animal Justice’s key concern is ensuring an accountable, well-funded enforcement system that protects animals to the maximum extent possible. The province of Ontario will now have an opportunity to revisit provincial animal law enforcement, and Animal Justice will support a system that puts animals first.”

The case was argued on May 16, 2018 in Perth, Ontario. Animal Justice was represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP. It is unknown whether the decision will be appealed.

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The decision in Bogaerts v Attorney General of Ontario 2019 ONSC 41 can be found here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

 

 

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Build Your Own Cruelty-Free Cheese & Charcuterie Board

Animal Justice December 19, 2018

The holiday season is upon us!

For many, this time of year represents peace, love and joy. But for animals confined on Canadian farms, there’s nothing kind or joyful about this time of year.

Tragically, holiday feasts often fuel the nightmare that is modern farming. Cows used for dairy are forcibly impregnated, have their babies stolen, and are sent to slaughter when their milk production declines. Animals killed for meat suffer from the day they are born until the day they are trucked to slaughter—often confined for their entire lives in dark barns, are denied everything that’s natural to them, and are killed at only a fraction of their natural lifespan.

But with so many plant-based holiday treat options available, it’s possible to have exciting seasonal eats without the cruelty!

We’ve teamed up with plant-based chef Amy Longard to bring you this incredible guide to building your own animal-free holiday cheese and charcuterie board!

Below are Amy’s top brand choices and products to make a compassionate spread of your own:

Cheeses – Daiya (Farmhouse Blocks), Culchered, Earth Island, Field Roast (CHAO Creamery), GUSTA, Happy Heart Vegan Gourmet, Miyoko’s Creamery, Nuts For Cheese, Truffula (available in Edmonton, Alberta), Vegan Stokes, VegCheese, VegNature, Violife, and Fauxmagerie Zengarry.

Meat Alternatives – Beyond Meat, Field Roast, GUSTA, Tofurky, Real Fake Meats (available in Halifax, Nova Scotia), The Very Good Butchers, and Yam Chops.

Fruits – Grapes, berries, cherries, ground cherries, pomegranate, clementines, and dried fruits like figs, raisins, cranberries or apricots.

Watch how we constructed our vegan cheese & charcuterie board!

Veggies – Olives, sliced raw vegetables, pickled or fermented vegetables (beets, onions, gherkin pickles are always popular), roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, black garlic, etc.

Dips & Spreads – Grainy mustard, hummus, bruschetta, salsa, chutney, jams, maple syrup, and compotes. Check out Amy’s  fig & olive tapenade and zucchini almond dip.

Nuts & Seeds I like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, candied pecans, tamari almonds, and pistachios.

Dark chocolate – Can’t go wrong here!

Bread & Crackers – French baguette and/or a mix of crackers including Mary’s Gone Crackers, Le Pain des fleurs Crispbread, and more.

Decor –  We used pine cones, holly and ivy, pine branches and of course a few nice cutting boards and decorative bowls. Things like micro greens or delicate leafy greens look pretty. You can also use festive household items like mini-lights, ornaments, candles, or whatever you have on hand to jazz up your board.

Many of the above-mentioned cheeses and meat alternatives are available throughout Canada and the US at health food stores, Whole Foods Markets, and most major grocery stores. In Canada, you can also order plant-based cheeses online via Vegan Supply and Yam Chops.

If you’re stuck on what to make for your holiday dinner, be sure to download Amy Longard’s Healthy Holidays eBook. CLICK HERE to get your digital copy. Happy snacking!

 

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What Do Ontario’s New Slaughter Laws Mean For Animals?

Animal Justice December 12, 2018

Ontario has announced that it’s amending its provincial slaughter regulations. The province will eliminate the need for a veterinarian to conduct post-mortem inspections at a slaughterhouse of an animal killed on a farm. However, a pre-slaughter inspection still needs to be done by a veterinarian on the farm. This will decrease the likelihood that the industry will attempt to truck downed animals to slaughterhouses, causing them even more stress and suffering.

Although the impact on animals will be small, Animal Justice is concerned by the growing trend to make animal welfare regulations more “outcome based.”

“Outcome-based” rules establish only an outcome that a regulated party must achieve. This is the opposite of “prescriptive” rules, which set out exactly how regulated parties must comply with the rules.

For example, saying that it is illegal to overcrowd animals in transport is outcome-based. The outcome is not crowding animals. By contrast, saying that, for example, “the loading density for pigs of around 100 kg should not exceed 235 kg/m2″, as the European Union requires, is prescriptive. What crowding means is measurable using numbers.

Laws must be flexible enough to be adaptive to unique situations, but also predictable and foreseeable for those subject to the laws. Sometimes it is difficult to balance flexibility with predictability. When it is possible to create specific and predictable laws with no real loss to flexibility, it is clearly better for animals that laws are indeed created with specificity and predictability. In other words, as much as possible, it is better for standards to be prescriptive. This ensures animal industries understand exactly what the law requires of them, and ensures law enforcement understands exactly when standards have been met—or violated.

When outcome-based measures are used in situations were prescriptive rules would be more appropriate, a race to the bottom is encouraged. Most animal industries are not over-complying with regulations. They are doing only what they must to stay on the right side of the law. When rules are vague, there’s an incentive is to push the boundaries and do as little as possible.

It is also difficult to enforce vague rules, because law enforcement agencies are also confused about what is required, and unwilling to be zealous in enforcing laws only to face backlash. But when rules are clear, specific, and numbers-based, they are much easier to enforce.

Ontario’s current meat regulation amendment proposes a minor outcome-based modification that would not impact animals. However, we alerted OMAFRA to our objection towards outcome-based rules by filing a submission through their public consultation process.

Thank you for supporting our work to lead the legal fight for animals in Canada. Without you, we would not be able to monitor and influence legal changes like this one.

 

 

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