A Canadian animal rights group is promoting its “Charter of Rights and Freedoms for Animals” as a way to further their protection, but its practicality is being questioned by other legal experts.
Animal Justice's non-profit wing launched their charter campaign last week, saying it would “ensure animals are treated as sentient beings instead of mere property, would guarantee the rights and freedoms that make life worth living, and give all animals a chance to have their interests represented in court.”
The group says there’s a gap between how Canadians care about animal welfare and how the legal system views it, and are hoping a petition draws the attention of policymakers.
“Animals don't have legal standing to go to court and have a judge say yeah, that animal's rights are being violated, that to me that is very sad,” said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer with Animal Justice.
“(A charter would) give clear guidelines on how animals are to be treated and how we expect to live with them... free from suffering, live meaningful lives which they can express natural behaviours and socialize.”
Labchuk said though many animals raised for slaughter are treated inhumanely, they aren’t asking for people to stop eating meat.
She wouldn’t say what the charter could mean for zoos and aquariums.
Law prof: idea would cause 'huge problems' with way society structured
University of Ottawa law professor Carissima Mathen said there has been a shift toward more accommodation for some animals, but enshrining animal rights into law similar to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be provocative and “almost a legal revolution.”
“One of the core rights of any person is the right not to be exploited and we use animals in a variety of ways,” she said.
“That's really not for the benefit of animals, it's for the benefits of humans. There would be huge problems with that.”
Mathen said the idea does serve a purpose as a conversation starter, which does benefit Animal Justice.
However, she said it wouldn’t become law without the political will to back it up.