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Victory! Bill to Ban Whale & Dolphin Captivity Passes the Senate

Animal Justice October 24, 2018

After nearly three years of delay and obstruction, a bill to ban keeping whales and dolphins in captivity has finally passed through the Canadian Senate. Senators voted to pass Bill S-203 late on Tuesday, and the legislation will now make its way to the House of Commons for further debate and voting. This groundbreaking legislation is now half-way to becoming law!

The legislation bans keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, breeding them, as well as import and export. There are exceptions for legitimate rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Only two aquariums still imprison whales and dolphins in Canada—Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium. The two aquariums fought the legislation at every stage, and pro-aquarium senators repeatedly attempted to kill, block, and delay Bill S-203. Most recently, Conservative Senate Whip Don Plett tried to amend the bill to exempt Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium, which would have made the legislation meaningless. Senator Don Plett’s delay tactics were finally defeated on Tuesday, and at last the bill was allowed to come to a vote.

Animal Justice has been fighting to help pass this bill from the beginning. Bill S-203 enjoys broad public support from Canadians, and it was saved more than once by the incredible advocacy of people who emailed senators, made phone calls, and shared information about Bill S-203 on social media. In June 2017, the Senate email system was swamped by emails from the public when it looked like pro-aquarium senators were mobilizing to kill the bill.

Bill S-203 has also attracted support from politicians of all political stripes. Earlier this year, Members of Parliament from the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Greens joined Animal Justice and Humane Society International at a press conference to call for an end to Senate obstruction so the bill could move to the House of Commons.

Bill S-203 was first introduced in December 2015 by Senator Wilfred Moore. After Senator Moore’s retirement, it was sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair. Green Party leader Elizabeth May will sponsor the bill in the House of Commons.

Over a dozen other jurisdictions around the world have already banned keeping some or all cetaceans in tanks, including Mexico, France, South Carolina, and California. Ontario banned keeping orca whales in 2015, and the Vancouver Park Board voted to ban cetacean display and captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017. The ban is now being challenged in court, but in the meantime, the Vancouver Aquarium publicly promised to end its practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

There is also hope for rescued whales and dolphins once the ban becomes law. The Whale Sanctuary Project plans to build a seaside sanctuary for retired whales and dolphins in Nova Scotia, British Columbia, or Washington, offering hope to creatures who have spent a life confined in miserable concrete tanks.

 

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Criminal Charge Dropped Against Witness Who Filmed Fur Farm Cruelty

Animal Justice October 23, 2018

Prosecutors in Oshawa, Ontario have withdrawn a criminal break and enter charge against animal advocate Malcolm Klimowicz, who was charged earlier this year after filming severe neglect and cruelty on a mink farm. The charge had prompted massive rallies outside the Oshawa courthouse, significant public outcry, and even inspired the hashtag #MinkTrial.

Break and enter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Initially, prosecutors refused to withdraw the charge laid by police, even though legal experts considered the case against Mr. Klimowicz to be weak.

In 2017, Mr. Klimowicz walked on to multiple mink farms in Ontario and filmed the heartbreaking conditions that he found. He documented injured and dead minks confined in tiny, filthy wire cages, with piles of feces, puddles of urine, and crawling maggots. Minks were frequently overcrowded in the barren cages, and many suffered from open wounds and displayed repetitive behaviours that indicate severe psychological distress.

The shocking video footage was submitted to authorities, but the fur farms escaped prosecution, despite evidence of unimaginable cruelty in violation of federal and provincial laws. The only charges laid were against Mr. Klimowicz himself.

Although the Oshawa charge has now been withdrawn, Mr. Klimowicz still faces similar charges in Collingwood and Kingston.

Police and prosecutors frequently pursue animal advocates for exposing animal suffering while ignoring the crimes of the animal abusers, including Save Movement founder Anita Krajnc, acquitted of criminal mischief for giving water to thirsty pigs. The Krajnc trial made global headlines and exposed millions of people to meat industry cruelty. If the remaining charges against Mr. Klimowicz go to trial, the prosecution will undoubtedly have the same effect, increasing public awareness of horrific cruelty inherent in the Canadian fur industry.

Fur farming is largely unregulated in Canada, with few, if any, standards for the conditions under which animals must be kept. Fur farm cruelty runs rampant, as documented by Mr. Klimowicz as well as during another cross-country undercover investigation in 2014.

Mr. Klimowicz is accepting contributions toward his legal defence on his crowdfunding page, and supporters are invited to stay tuned for details on future court dates.

 

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Government (Finally) Moves to Close Bestiality Loophole

Animal Justice October 18, 2018

After a courtroom showdown and years of advocacy by Animal Justice, the federal government finally introduced legislation today to close Canada’s bestiality loophole. The new law also strengthens animal fighting offences. Animal Justice welcomes this news, but believes it is still not enough. The legislation still fails to deliver more comprehensive reform to Canada’s outdated animal cruelty laws.

Over two years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that most forms of bestiality are not illegal under existing animal cruelty laws. Animal Justice intervened in the case to fight bestiality, and urged the federal government to take immediate action to update the laws once the shocking decision was released.

Yet it took years to see action. In 2016, the Liberal government killed a bill introduced by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith that would have updated Canada’s archaic animal cruelty laws and addressed bestiality. The public was outraged, and in response government officials promised to launch broad consultations and improve the animal cruelty laws.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel introduced a private member’s bill to address bestiality in 2017, and sponsored a parliamentary petition started by Animal Justice that gathered thousands of signatures. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Canadians have contacted the government, seeking stronger laws.

Although the government has finally taken action, Animal Justice believes that animals deserve far more than what they got. Canada still has some of the worst animal cruelty laws in the western world, and this legislation does nothing to change that. Surprisingly, the new laws don’t even give courts the ability to ban bestiality offenders from owning animals in the future, leaving vulnerable animals at risk of ongoing sexual abuse.

In the news release announcing the law, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould emphasized that the bill wouldn’t interfere with “farming, hunting, and trapping practices,” suggesting the government continues to listen to animal-use industries that profit from animal cruelty, rather than listening to the overwhelming majority of Canadians that support strengthening animal cruelty laws.

Animal Justice will push for changes to the new legislation to ensure those convicted of bestiality cannot own animals in the future, and will continue to fight for an overhaul of Canada’s last-century animal cruelty laws.

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