Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


How Ottawa stifles animal activists

March 6, 2011  Silver Donald Cameron, The Chronicle Herald

“Canada,” said the U.S. journalist, “is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China.”

Another comment on Bev Oda and the garrotting of Kairos? Nope. A reflection on the Harperites’ infatuation with harsh sentences and larger prisons? No. Kyoto, Afghan detainees, the G20 repression, the flouting of the Supreme Court in the Omar Khadr case? Our humiliating defeat in the UN Security Council election? Could have been, but in fact it’s none of the above.

No, Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, published in Clinton, Wash., is writing about the federal government’s denial of free speech to animal welfare charities in Canada. And he’s in touch with animal rights activists in China. He knows what they think.

"On February 5, 2011," writes Clifton, the Canada Revenue Agency published "draft regulations governing animal charities which would ensure that any animal charity speaking out against anything that is not already illegal would lose nonprofit status."

One specific example: the regulations make it clear that a Canadian animal charity would lose its charitable status if it opposed vivisection, which is the practice of operating on living animals in order to gain knowledge of pathological or physiological processes. A charity could suffer the same fate if it opposed the fur industry or the seal hunt.

In fact, says Clifton, the draft regulations provide "that an animal charity may only advocate policies and practices which benefit humans more than animals."

Really? I hustled off to the CRA website. Sure enough, that’s exactly what the draft regulations say. The logic, if one can call it that, derives from British common law. The courts, says CRA, have determined that "an activity or purpose is only charitable when it provides a benefit to humans. For some purposes and activities, including those relieving the suffering of animals, the courts have decided that the benefit is the promotion of the moral or ethical development of the community."

But don’t try to argue that supporting animal welfare is a good thing in and of itself. "Promoting the welfare of animals," the CRA declares, "is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans."

With respect to vivisection, says the CRA, the courts have decided that "seeking to abolish vivisection is not charitable. This is in part because, as the courts have put it, despite the suffering inflicted on animals, the ‘immense and incalculable benefits which have resulted from vivisection’ and the ‘positive and calamitous detriment of appalling magnitude’ that would result from its abolition, outweigh any possible promotion of the moral and ethical development of the community."

The gaping flaw in the CRA’s argument, of course, is that it freezes — indeed, prevents — the evolution of the law. The law reflects the moral consensus of the community at a particular moment in time. When the consensus changes, the law must change as well. The law once decreed that women were chattels, slavery was fine, and petty theft warranted hanging. When society reversed its thinking on these matters, the law eventually reversed its position, too.

The CRA argues, in effect, that charitable purposes can only reflect the past — the decisions that the courts have already made. But the very phrase "the moral and ethical development of the community" concedes that moral and ethical attitudes evolve. That’s what the word "development" means. And if moral attitudes have evolved, then someone who demands corresponding changes in the law is very precisely "promoting the moral and ethical development of the community."

A growing body of opinion now holds that we will not achieve our human potential — or even survive — unless we develop a respectful, ethical relationship with the rest of nature. The coyote, the cod and the chestnut have a right to live and flourish, and advocating on their behalf — with or without a benefit to humans — is a deeply moral activity and a legitimate charitable purpose.

Do the Harperites disagree? We’ll never know. They ignore ideas, and attack people instead. Lie about them. Impugn their motives. Cut their funding. Dissolve their organizations. Imprison them. Deny them charitable status.

"Canada is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China. "A chilling remark. I wish I could claim it was wrong.

Comment: Please write your MP, the CRA, and other government officials/politicians. We have the power and opportunity for victory and new legislation if we unite to prevent outdated regulations from being carried forward.  The current rules are inadequate and in need of significant change. Citizens of every nation recognize the absurdly obvious injustice toward animals in society, and like previous social justice movements, we can and will raise the status of those oppressed and voiceless beings.  Silence enables the cause of injustice. Those in charge of our affairs must listen to the public and be held to account. Set the tone for reform – take charge and fight the CRA’s ongoing attempts (which started in the early 1990’s) to muzzle and revoke the tax-exempt status of animal and environmental charities.

French laws for Charity Advocacy are more liberal with freedoms in terms of advocacy work and charities can be involved in political activities. The US changed its system in 1976 by loosening the rules on activities by registered charities.

Well worth the read: The Law of Advocacy by Charitable Organizations by Richard Bridge (2000) The report outlines the current law and regulations governing advocacy by charities. It outlines the difficulties in administering these rules, which are based on three different sources:

i) decisions of the courts (the common law); ii) the federal Income Tax Act; and iii) the administrative policies of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (Revenue Canada).

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC is one of many organizations operating in Canada without the restrictions of charitable status. We refuse to let the animals down. We will not compromise our values, our principles, and our freedom to speak out on their behalf without the fear of ‘retribution.’ That’s what democracy is.    

Related News: US state lawmakers attempting to quash rights of animal activists   

Trying to keep the public unaware and in the dark. 

Iowa lawmakers are attempting to pass laws that would make it illegal for activists to investigate animal cruelty on farms.

The bill would make it a crime to "interfere with property associated with a livestock operation" by producing, possessing, or distributing audio or visual recordings of the operation. Violating the proposed law could result in a ten year prison sentence if the operations of the livestock facility are disrupted enough to cause $100,000 in losses for the owner. 

This legislation comes on the heels of legislation proposed in Florida by Senator Jim Norman that would make it a felony to photograph farms without written consent from the owner of the farm, even if those photographs were taken from public roads or airplanes. The Florida bill is blatantly unconstitutional and would never stand up to a challenge in federal court. [Source: Care2, 03/11/11] 

Corporations are increasingly feeling the heat of the public. What may have been once acceptable is no longer. Those who cling to outdated/traditional and unethical methods of doing business will fail. Undercover investigations have exposed shocking animal abuses and suffering, resulting in calls for new animal protection and enforcement legislation. Blind allegiance of lawmakers and politicians can’t prevent a social movement from gathering strength. The welfare and rights of animals are of concern to the majority of people, and they have spoken. 

Times have changed. Livelihoods have changed. Ethical shopping is big. As consumers, we have immense power and can reform society for the betterment of all. Get engaged! 

It’s a new day with new directions. Challenging the status quo means keeping animal issues in the public eye.  Institutionalized ‘property use,’ (for that is how animals are mainly viewed) such as the billions of species exploited for experimentation, clothing, food, recreation, and entertainment is all about economics and human self-interest.   

It’s been said more than once that to date the human enterprise has proceeded with inadequate moral guidance, characterized by a blatant disregard for non-human animals and the environment that sustains all species.  Do we have the ability and will to put aside our self-interest, greed, and sense of entitlement to preserve what is left of nature and its non-human inhabitants? A just and humane civilization is one that protects the voiceless, and allows everyone who gives a damn to speak and act on their behalf. Carmina Gooch  

Of interest: Effectively silencing Canada’s whistleblowers

October 27, 2015 Humane Society of Canada in dogfight to keep tax free status