By Barry Kent MacKay, Director
Last year an American colleague expressed surprise when I dismissed his naïve belief that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a progressive supporter of environmental or animal welfare issues.
I supported Trudeau in the 2015 federal election that gave him his job, and a majority government, because of two major promises he made during his campaign. The first was that he would reform the electoral system, and the second was that he’d support what was needed to be done to lower greenhouse gas emissions in accordance to our international commitment. He failed to deliver on both.
Then, in 2016, Mr. Trudeau, a year into his mandate, killed Bill C-246, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act, a rather innocuous bit of legislation full of compromises aimed to appease the multitudes of commercial interests in Canada whose profits derive from animal use.
So when Justin Trudeau held a town hall meeting in Nanaimo, B.C., on Feb. 2, 2018, Jordan Reichert, West Coast Campaign Officer for the Animal Protection Party of Canada attended and to his surprise, was selected to present his question (click here to watch the video and to read Jordan’s response). After providing background and context about C-246, Jordan politely asked, “And so while the room is full of people and there are no animals here, all the animals of Canada have a question for you, and that is what is the Liberal government going to do to protect them? It is 2018, but we’re still treating animals like it’s 1918.”
According to a professionally produced transcript, Trudeau responded: “Thank you for your question. Um, (applause) of course, uh, everyone, uh, in Canada, uh, wants to make sure we’re protecting animals, making sure, uh, that we are not, uh, abusing or exploiting or, uh, doing things that aren’t consistent with our values and our approach.”
What nonsense. First, Bill C-246 was not about standard farming practices. The Modernizing Animal Protections Act would have made improvements to the animal cruelty offences in the Criminal Code, closing legal loopholes that let animal abusers go unpunished. Bill C-246 also would have cracked down on dog fighting; toughened penalties for repeat animal abusers; protected animals from sexual abuse; prohibited the practice of shark finning in Canadian waters and banned the import of shark fins into Canada; banned the import of dog and cat fur; and would have required that fur be labeled with the animal species and country of origin No mention of farming.
Second, not everyone in Canada wants to make sure we’re protecting animals, or there would be no opposition to laws designed to do that; there would be no charges of cruelty, no poaching, blood sports or need for animal shelters, no exposés such as periodically arise from hidden cameras on farms and in abattoirs, no need to hide military and medical research on live animals behind layers of impermeable security.
The Prime Minister went on to say: “The challenge, and you actually highlighted in what you, what you said, the challenge is this debate has been setup as a polarizing one between animal rights activists, uh, and, uh, farmers. Uh, that debate between, uh, primarily urban, I’m not going to call you out here, but suit and tie wearing activists, but you look, thank you for dressing up for this. It’s an important thing. Um, but that debate between, uh, urban and rural is one of those lines where animal rights ends up getting, um, you know, pulled at.
Instead of a substantive answer to a serious question, Mr. Trudeau chose to disparage Jordan because of the way he dressed and then pretended to thank him for dressing up. Instead of treating Jordan with respect, he chose to attack him for the way he looked. And then he decided to blame animal activists for polarizing the issue – as though Jordan, an urban person, was to blame for not understanding rural sensibilities.
It is far easier to disparage “us”, as a group than to try to rationalize the production of unnecessary suffering among animals. The fear is that what is socially deemed necessary, as reflected in law, may shift toward increased compassion.
And in fact Trudeau’s stumbling inanities highlighted one of the great paradoxes we encounter in this era of social advocacy: On one hand we are assured that farmers care deeply for their animals, and out of either emotional or economic concern, or both, they want what’s best for them, but on the other hand, legislation that would support giving such animals more humane care is claimed to reflect ignorance of what farmers need to do, a tacit admission that farmers need to cause suffering. Certainly when the veil is lifted on how animals are treated (see “Economics Over Animal Welfare“), we see that economics dictate that cruelty to animals can be built into the system, particularly of large-scale competitive animal production industries. It is hopelessly sad if Trudeau, or any thinking, caring person, is unaware of what factory farming entails.
Trudeau was not finished. He concluded: “And my recommendation for animal rights activists is to actually, uh, work closer with, uh, with, uh, farm groups and, uh, and, rural groups, uh, who are also concerned about animal rights, and very open to moving forward on a respectful practices, but are very much worried and see it as an attack on them. ”
Ironically Bill C-246 was advanced by a Liberal animal protection MP, Nathaniel Erskine Smith, part of Trudeau’s own government. The Modernizing Animal Protections Act was designed to modernize those antiquated parts of Canada’s federal criminal code that pertain to animal cruelty. Jordan’s question was not what WE should do. He was not asking for Trudeau’s recommendations. He asked what Trudeau intended to do.
Justin Trudeau is sadly out of touch, allowing himself to be manipulated by commercial interests who, while claiming otherwise, abuse animals and are terrified of even the least movement toward a more progressive body of legislation. Yes it is 2018, but not for animals in Canada as Prime Minister Trudeau’s lack of compassion so aptly displayed.