New an­i­mal act cause for con­cern

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to its pro­posed An­i­mal Wel­fare Act is in­ex­pli­ca­ble. In the five years it’s spent on this bill, it pro­vided no op­por­tu­nity for public con­sul­ta­tion, un­like other prov­inces. It is­sued no gen­eral call for sub­mis­sions, in­stead con­sult­ing the P.E.I. Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture, whose pri­or­ity is the eco­nomic value of an­i­mals, not their wel­fare. It’s been silent re­gard­ing crit­i­cisms of this bill, pro­vid­ing no ex­pla­na­tion of what it con­tains. In­stead, its part­ners are call­ing for it to be passed quickly with­out de­bate.

The bill’s pre­dom­i­nant change to cur­rent leg­is­la­tion is that it would put more power in the hands of in­dus­tries that use an­i­mals by ex­clud­ing a whole new range of an­i­mals from pro­tec­tion, ex­empt­ing an ar­ray of in­hu­mane in­dus­try prac­tices from pros­e­cu­tion, and cre­at­ing an Ap­peals Board that can be dom­i­nated by ap­pointees with no knowl­edge of an­i­mal wel­fare or the law.

It wouldn’t change the fact that in­spec­tors aren’t re­quired to in­spect busi­nesses, fol­low up on com­plaints, or fol­low vet­eri­nary ad­vice in cases of dis­tress. It wouldn’t even re­quire that a busi­ness be in­spected be­fore re­ceiv­ing a li­cense, al­low­ing puppy mills to con­tinue.

There’s noth­ing even close to the pro­gres­sive steps other prov­inces are tak­ing, like rec­og­niz­ing an­i­mals as sen­tient be­ings, ban­ning selling an­i­mals in stores, ban­ning keep­ing ex­otic species in cap­tiv­ity, or pro­hibit­ing abu­sive prac­tices like teth­er­ing.

The main im­prove­ment is that it would in­crease op­tions for penal­ties on con­vic­tion. But with such low min­i­mum stan­dards, such wide­spread ex­emp­tions, and no obli­ga­tion on the part of in­spec­tors to act, penal­ties are largely ir­rel­e­vant if con­vict­ing abusers is un­likely.

If the crit­i­cisms of this bill are in­ac­cu­rate, the gov­ern­ment needs to ex­plain why. If they’re ac­cu­rate, the gov­ern­ment’s part­ners need to ex­plain why they’re sup­port­ing leg­is­la­tion that’s clearly not in the best in­ter­ests of an­i­mals. El­iz­a­beth Scho­a­les, Char­lot­te­town

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