Animal Justice | Leading the legal fight for animal protection
Animal Justice leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Their lawyers work to pass strong new animal protection legislation, push for the prosecution of animal abusers, and fight for animals in court.
TransLink Transit Police in Vancouver have ticketed an animal advocate for spreading awareness of animal cruelty by showing farm and slaughterhouse footage to passersby on the street.
Jeff Rigear is a former undercover investigator on Canadian farms who now runs TV Outreach for Animals. Mr. Rigear sets up a 42-inch television screen on busy streets in Vancouver, and plays video footage exposing brutal conditions inside modern farms and slaughterhouses. He hands out leaflets and speaks with pedestrians about veganism to inspire personal dietary change and help save farmed animals from unimaginable suffering.
Mr. Rigear was recently approached by several transit police officers while doing outreach near a transit station. According to a letter filed by a lawyer for Mr. Rigear, the conduct of the officers was “extremely disturbing”. They rudely accused him of enjoying the slaughterhouse video, then told him repeatedly that they did not like his footage. Disturbingly, one officer suggested that he should “just smash [the] TV”.
The officers then had a lengthy discussion about how they could charge Mr. Rigear, and which laws they could accuse him of violating. They eventually issued him a ticket for soliciting transit users. However, the law is clear that soliciting requires an attempt to get money or other items of value from a person. Mr. Rigear was not asking for money—he was distributing information, and engaged in his constitutional right to express his views on animal cruelty, which is an important topic of intense public and social interest.
Animal Justice is concerned by this apparent attempt by TransLink Transit Police to target an animal advocate for his views. Animals have no rights of their own, which is why we regularly fight to protect the rights of advocates like Mr. Rigear who are targeted by law enforcement while engaged in lawful activities.
We will continue to monitor this case as it proceeds through the court system.
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Aquarium has dropped its copyright lawsuit against filmmaker Gary Charbonneau. The Aquarium filed a notice of discontinuance in the case this week, shortly before CEO John Nightingale was set to be cross-examined by counsel for Mr. Charbonneau.
The Aquarium first filed the copyright infringement lawsuit against Mr. Charbonneau in 2016 over his documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered, which exposed the Aquarium’s cruel practice of confining sentient whales and dolphins in concrete tanks. The lawsuit was deemed a misuse of copyright law by legal experts, designed to suppress public criticism and debate through the court process.
The Aquarium sought to have the entire documentary removed from the internet, and was successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction ordering that certain segments be removed. On appeal, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that injunction, emphasizing the importance of Mr. Charbonneau’s freedom of expression.
Animal Justice intervened in the appeal to express concerns that the case could negatively affect the ability of animal advocates to film, expose, and publicize animal cruelty issues across Canada, emboldening secretive animal use industries to file illegitimate copyright lawsuits to silence animal advocates. This could prevent them from investigating, documenting, and exposing hidden animal cruelty.
“I am delighted this frivolous lawsuit has finally been dropped,” said Mr. Charbonneau. “However, I remain troubled by the Aquarium’s aggressive litigation strategy, and I am concerned they will continue to fight losing legal battles at the expense of conservation and rescue.”
“We are glad the Aquarium has finally determined to drop its unmeritorious lawsuit and let the documentary speak for itself, so that Canadians can make their own judgments about the ethics of the Aquarium’s practices,” said Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, counsel to Mr. Charbonneau.
“This lawsuit had disturbing implications for those who investigate, document, and expose animal cruelty,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice. “The writing is on the wall for the cruel captivity industry, as the public no longer supports keeping sentient animals confined for entertainment.”
The Aquarium also sought judicial review of the Vancouver Park Board’s bylaw banning them from keeping whales and dolphins in Stanley Park. The bylaw was overturned last month, but the Park Board is appealing to the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Shock and outrage is spreading across Canada after news reports revealed that a B.C. couple butchered and ate a potbelly pig whom they adopted from the local SPCA.
Molly, the potbelly pig, was rescued by the Cowichan & District branch of the BC SPCA as part of a cruelty investigation, and eventually regained her health thanks to their care. Molly was adopted by the couple in January, but less than a month later the couple killed and ate her, posting Snapchat photos and videos of them seasoning her flesh while preparing to consume her.
In the wake of this appalling news, many people are demanding justice for Molly and asking for charges to be laid. Tragically, it’s not illegal to kill and eat pets in Canada. A person who owns an animal can legally kill and eat that animal. It may come as a shock to many people to learn that this includes not just the 771 million farmed animals killed every year, but even dogs, cat, potbelly pigs, and other lawfully owned companion animals.
Canada’s animal cruelty laws are considered the worst in the Western world. It’s not illegal to kill and eat a companion animal. Rather, the law prohibits causing unnecessary suffering to animals, or killing them in a way that results in distress. But killing a companion animal quickly, in a way that minimizes distress, is not generally illegal.
Despite the horror and discomfort that many people feel about companion animals being killed and eaten for dinner, Members of Parliament voted in 2016 to kill Bill C-246, which would have updated Canada’s outdated animal cruelty laws and outlawed cat and dog meat.
If you believe the law should treat Molly and other animals like sentient individuals, instead of property that can be killed and eaten, please take action by signing our Animal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Two men accused of vicious animal cruelty, dogfighting, and firearm charges in Chatham, Ontario have escaped criminal conviction. A judge in the high-profile case threw out 67 charges against John Robert and Michel Gagnon after ruling that the case had taken too long to reach a trial. Ultimately, the judge stated that delay by the Crown prosecutor meant the case would have taken 30 months and 28 days, instead of the 30 months considered acceptable for a trial of this nature.
The high-profile Chatham dogfighting case captured national news headlines when the dogfighting ring was first busted in 2015. Soon after, the Ontario SPCA asked the court to execute 21 of the rescued dogfighting victims on grounds that they were dangerous pit bulls. After public outcry and support from hockey legend Don Cherry, Animal Justice filed a court application to intervene in the case to save the dogs. Animal Justice fought to ensure the dogs’ interests were represented, as the agency normally tasked with protecting animals was seeking their execution, and the dog owners were accused of committing vicious cruelty offences against them.
Although the court refused to let Animal Justice participate in the case, an agreement was eventually reached to save most of the dogs from execution. Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary covered the cost of sending 18 of the dogs to Dogs Playing for Life sanctuary in Florida, where they would receive training and behavioural assistance.
This case is the latest example of a disturbing trend. Animal cruelty cases infrequently prosecuted, yet even when charges do get laid, they are often withdrawn or stayed prior to trial.
In staying the charges, the judge was critical of the Crown for being too slow to provide evidence to the accused dogfighters. Tragically, the two men are not banned from owning or interacting with dogs in the future. They are now free to obtain additional dogs and other animals, which puts vulnerable creatures at risk of further cruelty. Another individual accused in the case, Robert Tomlin, did plead guilty to one count of animal cruelty last year and was hit with a lifetime ban on animal ownership.
VANCOUVER – National animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice is responding to the decision from the B.C. Supreme Court quashing, in part, a municipal bylaw aimed at preventing whales and dolphins from suffering in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The Aquarium sought to overturn the Park Board bylaw passed in May, 2017 that bans confining whales, dolphins, and porpoises in Vancouver parks, including the Aquarium in Stanley Park. The Aquarium argued that it had a constitutional right to confine whales and dolphins. Animal Justice and Zoocheck focused on dismantling the Aquarium’s troubling legal claim that confining cetaceans is a form of expression protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The groups argued that confining whales is harmful and violent conduct not deserving of protection.
The Court decided that the anti-captivity bylaw did not apply to the Aquarium because of a licensing agreement signed between the Park Board and the Aquarium in 1999, which runs until 2029. In other words, the case hinged on an issue of contractual interpretation. The Court declined to consider the issue of free expression as it was not necessary to decide the case.
On January 18, 2018 the Aquarium announced that it would stop confining whales and dolphins after public pressure.
“The Aquarium made the disturbing claim that it has a constitutional right to keep sensitive, intelligent marine mammals in tiny tanks, a practice Canadians no longer find acceptable. The Aquarium’s freedom of expression claim could have permanently undermined animal protection laws right across Canada. We are pleased that the Court did not grant this right, and that other governments remain free to pass laws protecting animals.
“Ultimately, the Vancouver Aquarium was already forced last month to end its whale and dolphin captivity program due to public outrage over this cruel and outdated practice. A little over one year ago, there were five whales and dolphins at the Aquarium. Today, only one remains alive. We are pleased that no further vulnerable cetaceans will languish in captive misery at the Aquarium.
“The curtain is closing on whale and dolphin captivity in Canada. Senate Bill S-203, which would ban captivity and captive breeding nation-wide, is moving forward through Parliament, and just this week, the federal government introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-68. The bill includes a ban on capturing cetaceans for confinement and empowers the government to restrict imports of cetaceans into the country. It is clear that whale and dolphin captivity is an archaic, dying practice that will soon be outlawed.”
Animal Justice is a national animal law non-profit that leads the legal fight for animals in Canada. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international charity that works to protect wild animals in captivity and in the wild. Animal Justice and Zoocheck were represented by lawyers Arden Beddoes of Arvay Finlay LLP, and Benjamin Oliphant of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.
The B.C. Supreme Court decision in Ocean Wise Conservation Association v. Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation 2018 BCSC 196 is available here.
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Counsel to Animal Justice
The federal government presented a new bill that updates the Fisheries Act this week, including restrictions on capturing wild whales and dolphins for the purpose of keeping them in captivity.
The amendments would still allow exceptions to rescue cetaceans who are injured, sick or requiring care, and are part of a larger set of changes which include the restoration and protection of fishes and their habitats. The government also wants to give itself the power to restrict the import of whales and dolphins into the country.
At a Vancouver press conference, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc explained, “The public acceptance of keeping these majestic creatures in captivity has changed and we think the law should reflect that.”
We couldn’t agree more. Tens of thousands of Canadians have been demanding a ban on whale captivity, and the minister’s comments show that we’ve got the government’s attention.
But the new legislation doesn’t include a ban on breeding captive whales and dolphins—an essential part of protecting them from the cruelty of captivity. There are still dozens of captive belugas and dolphins in Canada, primarily at Marineland in Niagara Falls. If aquariums are allowed to continue breeding these sensitive creatures, it will be business as usual. Their offspring will be condemned to the misery and deprivation of life in a tiny tank.
Which is why we need Senate Bill S-203—the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act—to continue swimming through Parliament and become law.
Bill S-203 would ban whale and dolphin captivity across the country, end captive breeding, and ban the import and export of whales and dolphins, along with their reproductive materials.
And even though the Bill cleared the Senate Fisheries Committee last October, it has been languishing ever since. Conservative senators, particularly Senate Whip Don Plett, have been using sneaky delay tactics to stall this bill from reaching its final Senate vote.
As public support for imprisoning whales and dolphins continues to plummet, it’s only a matter of time before this cruel practice sinks altogether. Public pressure already forced the Vancouver Aquarium to give up on whale and dolphin captivity last month. Now, let’s make sure this outdated practice becomes illegal right across the country.
The dairy industry recently launched #Februdairy, a social media campaign aiming to promote dairy milk during the month of February. But before the campaign could even officially start, it quickly became a marketing failure.
When public caught wind, the Twitter hashtag exploded with the shocking truth about the dairy industry—focusing on the immense animal suffering that goes into all dairy milk products:
In the Canadian dairy industry, cows are forcefully impregnated, and and their calves are taken away shortly after birth so the milk can be sold. Male calves typically become veal, and female calves suffer the same fate as their mothers. When their bodies wear out and they cease to be profitable, dairy cows are sent to slaughter and become hamburger meat.
Dairy milk is isn’t just bad for animals. It’s linked to multiple diseases in humans, and takes a toll on the environment. Additionally, up to 90% of people of some non-European ethnicities can’t even digest the lactose found in dairy milk.
As plant milk sales continue to soar and dairy sales plummet, it’s easy to see why the dairy industry is desperate to convince people that its products are worth consuming.
According to Statistics Canada, milk consumption has fallen by 21.5% per-capita since 2009. Meanwhile almond milk consumption has tripled in just two years, according to Nielson.
Many milk companies see the writing on the wall, and are choosing to move into the plant-based milk market. Last year, Danone bought WhiteWave Foods, a plant-based milk company, for $10 billion USD. In 2017, Ben and Jerry’s started to roll out its impressive line of vegan ice cream.
Hello, plants—goodbye, dairy!
Meanwhile, Canadian health and food policy also appears to be shifting away from dairy. Health Canada recently released the draft for the new Canada Food Guide. Unlike previous versions, there is no dairy category in sight.
At a recent conference in Scotland, a livestock sustainability consultant stated, “There is a need in the dairy sector for some myth-busting. If consumers don’t buy our products – milk, cream, butter, cheese etc – we will not have a dairy industry in five to 10 years.”
But the real myths are the ones being told by the dairy industry. With the dairy-free movement continuing to grow, this spells good news for people, the planet and the cows.
At Animal Justice, we use the law to help animals. Sometimes that means using animal protection laws, but often it means using other laws, unrelated to animals, to hold industry accountable and shine a spotlight on the abuse animals endure. If you can’t get the mafia for murder, get them for tax evasion, right?
In addition to being a nightmare for animals, slaughterhouse work is notoriously dangerous and abusive for workers. Occupational health and safety regulations are frequently engaged by workers suffering from injuries on the job.
The family of a worker from Hallmark Poultry slaughterhouse in Vancouver even sued the company for wrongful death after Bao Min Cheng died of a heart attack following a 13 hour shift. In court documents, the family stated that Hallmark hires non-English-speaking Chinese migrants and has them working up to 70 hours per week.
In recent years, Vancouver residents have increasingly attended vigils at Hallmark to observe and document the crates of animals in their last moments before slaughter. Witnesses are able to stand in a public alley between Hallmark buildings to get an up-close view of the killing operations, and interactions with slaughterhouse officials have been tense, with animal advocates repeatedly assaulted.
Last summer, Hallmark employees were seen driving forklifts carrying crates full of live chickens held high in the air. They even drove the forklifts straight over bystanders’ heads, which is illegal because of the obvious danger it creates. Workplace safety regulations require forklift operators to keep even non-live loads close to the ground out of safety concerns.
With the assistance of Animal Justice, courageous witnesses reported the violations to Work Safe BC, the agency responsible for workplace safety. According to inspection reports obtained under freedom of information legislation, the slaughterhouse has now been reprimanded for its dangerous conduct and ordered to retrain its employees on safe forklift handling requirements.
From the inspection report, Hallmark has now directed “operators that, should they be confronted by persons attempting to block or disrupt their travel, they will refrain from attempting to go forward and will move to a safe location, maintain distance from those person(s), and ensure the lift truck load is grounded.”
This is a small victory for animals and those who speak up for them. If you need assistance reporting violations of any legislation that governs animal-use facilities, please contact us.
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Aquarium announced today that it would give up on its decades-long fight to continue to imprison and display whales and dolphins in tiny tanks.
Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice, issued the following statement.
“The Vancouver Aquarium appears to have finally accepted that whale and dolphin captivity is no longer socially acceptable in Canada. Today’s announcement is a tremendous victory for the thousands of compassionate citizens who stood up against the cruel practice of keeping smart, sentient whales and dolphins imprisoned in tiny tanks.
“But the Aquarium’s new position comes extremely late in the game. For decades, the Aquarium has fought tooth and nail against attempts to restrict or prohibit whale and dolphin captivity at its facility. The Aquarium is now backing down from this fight, but only after years of being the target of protests, being embroiled in lawsuits, and hit with a ban on cetacean captivity imposed by Vancouver’s Park Board.
“The writing is on the wall for the whale and dolphin captivity industry. We are relieved that no more cetaceans will suffer and die at the Aquarium.”
The Aquarium is still suing the Park Board in an attempt to overturn the anti-captivity by-law, claiming it restricts the Aquarium’s freedom of expression. Animal Justice intervened in that case, which has already been heard. The judge in that case is expected to issue a ruling shortly.
A bill moving through the Canadian Senate would impose a nation-wide ban on keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. It is expected to be voted on when Parliament resumes later this month.
Meanwhile, several whales and dolphins recently died at the Aquarium, including beluga whales Qila and Aurora in late 2016, porpoise Daisy in June, 2017, and false killer whale Chester in November, 2017. The only surviving cetacean at the Aquarium is a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Helen.
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British Columbia was in the news late last year for the incredible move to ban grizzly bear hunting province-wide. But the province is still no paradise for other animals. The B.C. government is quietly preparing to weaken a long list of hunting and trapping regulations, leaving cougars, wolves, black bears, and other wild animals exposed to hunters’ bullets and the cruel snap of a fur trap.
B.C. officials may hope that compassionate people will be too distracted by the grizzly hunting ban to notice that many other animals will suffer and die as a result of these disturbing regulatory changes. Not on our watch. Animal Justice has compiled a list of the regulations that are set to be gutted, and now you have an opportunity to comment on them before January 19.
Here’s a list of the disturbing changes:
Extending the wolf trapping season on Vancouver Island, even though officials acknowledge they do not have solid evidence to indicate the health of wolf populations.
Allowing hunters to chase cougars with dogs in the Okanagan Region after they have reached their cougar bag limit. The stated rationale for this is to allow hunters to train and exercise hunting dogs.
Doubling the number of cougars who can be gunned down in the Peace Region, from one to two.
Extending the spring black bear hunt in the Peace Region by two extra weeks.
Allowing increased, year-round deer hunting on some parts of Vancouver Island, as well as increased elk hunting.
Allowing hunting, without a permit, on Mayne Island.
Extending the season for killing elk near Kamloops—from 10 days to 50 days.
Allowing hunting in Silver Star Provincial Park, north of Kelowna. Currently, no hunting is permitted in the park.
Extending the deer hunting on Saltspring and Gabriola Islands, from 10 days to 90 days.
Creating a new mountain goat hunting season near Sleeping Chief Mountain.
Removing a hunting ban on certain public lands in the Peace Region.
Creating a new elk hunting season near Lower Cowichan.
Allowing rocky mountain elk hunting in the Skeena Region.
Allowing mountain elk hunting in the Perkins Peak and Cherry Creek areas.
Expanding bighorn sheep hunting around Taseko Lakes.
Allowing snowmobiles and ATVs to be used to hunt cougars, bears, and wolves in South Chilcotin.
Allowing mountain goat hunting near Nahatlach River Provincial Park.
The government is accepting comments on the proposals until January 19. Here’s how to have your say:
Visit the Hunting/Trapping Regulation website, and select “Login” at the top to register for your own BCeID account. (Tip: Choose the Basic BCeID option.)
Follow the links above to leave your comments on the proposed new regulations. Let the government know that you oppose increased hunting and trapping, hunting in provincial parks, and harassing cougars with dogs.
Email your B.C. MLA and politely ask them to speak up against increased hunting and harassment of wild animals.
When the B.C. government ended the grizzly bear hunt, they stated that gunning down innocent grizzlies was no longer socially acceptable. We agree. It’s also not socially acceptable to kill and chase cougars; trap wolves; allow a spring bear hunt; gun down goats, elks, turkeys, and sheep; and hunt in provincial parks. Please take action before it’s too late to protect these vulnerable animals from a brutal death at the hands of hunters and trappers.