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Quebec plans new legal status for animals

Pierre Paradis
Quebec Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis. (

Quebec’s agriculture minister has tabled a new provincial government bill to raise the legal status of domestic and farmed animals in the province beyond that of “furniture.”

Pierre Paradis on Friday introduced Bill 54 in the provincial assembly, with the stated goal of enshrining animals in Quebec’s Civil Code as sentient beings — that is, feeling and sensing life forms — with their own “biological imperatives,” and not as “furniture” or other movable assets.

The province’s decision comes in the wake of its ranking last June by the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund as 12th among Canada’s 13 provinces and territories in quality of animal protection laws.

Last year’s ALDF ranking, between the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, essentially held Quebec out as “the best province in which to mistreat an animal,” Paradis said in a release.

Bill 54, he said, makes clear the government’s intent to punish neglect of and cruelty to animals, modelling its definition of animals’ status on the “best” legislation in Europe.

For its definitions of unacceptable behaviour, Paradis said, Bill 54 takes its cues from legislation in the three provinces in the ALDF’s top tier for animal protection laws — specifically, Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario.

The legislation also includes amendments that double the potential fines for offenses against animals, to a range between $500 and $250,000, up from the current range of $250 to $125,000. The bill also lays out prison terms of up to 18 months as a possible penalty.

Quebec’s politically influential general farm organization, l’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), said Friday that at first glance, Bill 54 appears to provide flexibility to allow for accepted farming practices, within the existing national codes of practice for livestock care and husbandry.

Those codes already respect the provisions laid out in Bill 54, UPA said in a separate release.

Quebec’s Civil Code should reflect the values of Quebec society, Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said in the province’s release.

Bill 54, she said, is written in a way that reflects how legislation positively evolves in response to society’s own advancements.

The bill, UPA said, demonstrates increased public concern, both in Quebec and elsewhere, for the well-being of animals, and that the public wants assurance of humane practices in housing, shipping and slaughter of livestock, as well as safe and responsibly-produced food.

“For Quebec producers, mistreating an animal, regardless of the circumstances, is an unacceptable action and should be strongly reprimanded,” UPA said.

However, the group said, there’s a difference between legitimate public concern and the actions of “pressure groups” that seek to soil farmers’ reputations and create a false perception that livestock abuse is the norm in the ag sector.

Such a strategy is reprehensible and should also be strongly denounced, UPA said, adding that for some pressure groups, the idea of raising animals for food will always be unacceptable no matter what law is in force.

The ALDF’s 2014 rankings of animal protection legislation, from highest to lowest quality, put Manitoba in the No. 1 spot, followed by B.C., Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Yukon, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Nunavut. — Network


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