COLUMN: Animal protection a worthy cause

Saturday Beat

Canada is falling behind when it comes to animal welfare and a recently released report from the Canada Revenue Agency provides a fairly strong reason why.

Agency guidelines say that by law, “an activity or purpose is only charitable when it provides benefits to humans” and “to be charitable, the benefit to humans must always take precedence over any benefit to animals.”

In other words, any organization that promotes animal welfare or animal rights, like the Ottawa-based Animal Defence League or the Burnaby-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, cannot operate as a charity (they are non-profits) or issue tax receipts for donations.

It’s because of this that agencies like the David Suzuki Foundation don’t go anywhere near issues like Canada’s seal hunt. It would mean a forfeit of charitable status, which most organizations can’t afford. By not having charitable status, access to government grant money is virtually impossible, forcing animal advocate groups to fundraise through their own means and rely solely on altruistic donations.

Also under CRA regulations, any animal welfare registered charity, like the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada, cannot promote legislation to abolish legal practices or pressure the federal, provincial or territorial governments to restrict legal practices like trapping, hunting, animal research or animal agriculture, or urge them to ban consumer products like fur. Trying to strengthen laws to protect wildlife can also disqualify any charitable status.

This puts any organization concerned with animal welfare at an extreme disadvantage, and it shields any Canadian government from being pressured to advance animal welfare in this country.

Earlier this year, B.C.’s government boasted it had installed the country’s toughest laws on animal cruelty by implementing harsher penalties on people who abuse animals. These tough new laws, of course, have no teeth considering the Crown only charges one per cent of those found to be abusing animals in B.C.

While the Animal Defence League is considered extremist to some, its intent is clear: animals deserve better than what we’re providing for them.

While I’m not prepared to take meat off the dinner table or ban deer or moose hunting just yet (I can’t say the same for the grizzly and other trophy hunts), I do believe we can do better when it comes to managing our furry, feathered and scaly friends.

Sustaining our diets and need for meat is one thing. Killing bears, seals, whales and other creatures for superfluous reasons is something we as a species should have moved on from a long time ago.

If improved quality of life for people is the goal of charitable agencies, I would think raising the bar for animals that we have chosen to manage would be a positive step toward achieving that.

***

When the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan in March, more than just people were affected. After the Fukushima nuclear plant melted down and people were evacuated, thousands of animals were abandoned in the no-go zone.

As a result, 30,000 pigs, 2,500 beef cattle, 870 dairy cattle and countless house pets were left behind to starve. Many have already died.

Animals Asia issued a global plea to urge the Japanese government to allow owners, vets and animal advocates into the area to care for these animals during the crisis.

In May, the Japanese government allowed people to return briefly to collect personal possessions, but no animals were allowed to be retrieved or cared for.

To advocate for those animals left to die, contact the Japanese embassy in Ottawa at 255 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, Ont., K1N 9E6, or the Consulate General of Japan at 800-1177 West Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C., V6E 2K9, or call 604-685-5868.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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