Madam Speaker, I always wonder why, when we seem to be thinking about an election, this bill comes before us for debate. It dies on the order paper and then in the next Parliament it comes back but is not a priority of the government anymore. Then, when an election is in the offing, suddenly it is an important thing, we debate it and it dies again.
I think this is about the third or fourth Parliament in which we have been debating this particular bill. Here we are, perhaps in an end game, debating it once more. Everybody is saying we should do this. Why do we not just do this and get it over with? Because everybody agrees that being cruel and inhumane to animals cannot be tolerated in this society, so let us do it.
Let us do it. But then, when we take a look at what the government proposes, we say, “Wait a minute, this is not what we had in mind”. Of course, the government is pandering to the special interest groups that want anything and everything and would live in a vegetarian society. The government wants all their votes so it writes the bill in such a way that anybody killing any animal would seem to be committing an offence. Then government goes off to fight the election saying it understands what those groups are saying and is supporting them all the way, but the bill did not quite get passed.
I predict that we will be debating this in the next Parliament. Hopefully we will be over there and the Liberals will be over here, but if, in the most unfortunate result ever, they are over there again, we will go through this again. They will bring it back. It will not be a priority for years and years and then who knows?
First, I would like to read for members a quote to substantiate my argument that the government wants to pander to these groups that believe that nothing should be killed. I will quote the director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, one of Canada's major animal rights organizations, who stated:
The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges. That’s what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.
My hon. friend was just talking a few minutes ago about respecting the courts and letting the courts make the judgment, but how can we expect the courts to do what we want when we send these ambiguous messages to them? Then they try to figure it out, they do something we do not like, and we say, “But shucks, this is not the way the democracy is supposed to work”.
The bill hinges around one clause, which I would like to quote in part:
Every one commits an offence who, wilfully...
(b) kills an animal...brutally or viciously, regardless of whether the animal dies immediately;....
I contend that it is very hard to kill an animal so that it dies immediately without being kind of brutal or vicious about the whole affair. We do not tickle them to death. We shoot them, electrocute them and other things. We want them to die instantly. That is a pretty brutal process. Pardon me, and I am sorry for the people listening who have weak stomachs, but we cut chickens' throats and they bleed to death. That is deemed to be humane, but according to this bill that could be construed to be vicious and brutal and therefore we would be committing an offence.
This is what I mean about the ambiguity of this bill, which allows everybody to say “yes, I think it is protected”, but the poor farmers and everybody else would be at the mercy of people who take a different point of view. That is a very serious issue. Farmers are concerned.
The livestock slaughterhouses ought to be concerned because thousands of times a day they are “brutally“ and “wilfully” killing animals. We have always said that is humane, but according to this act it would be open to interpretation and we would end up sending it off to the courts to see what they say. Why do we not do the job right here and do it properly right here? That is what we are supposed to do.
We write the legislation. We are supposed to give clear direction to the courts, such as the following: “This is what we consider to be inhumane. This is what we consider to be vicious and brutal. Therefore, apply the law”. That is we are supposed to do rather than have these kinds of catch-all phrases so that everybody can feel good, with the poor farmer left at their mercy. The farmer is just feeding Canadians.
We also talked about hunters. Hunting is a sport not only in western Canada; thousands of people go out into the wilderness and hunt deer, moose and elk and so on. What happens if a hunter tries to shoot one dead instantly and does not quite make it? The animal goes off, bleeding profusely, is not found for an hour or so and dies in the meantime. Is that hunter guilty of an offence? It would appear so, according to this bill. There is no exemption for that.
What about those people who are out there with a fishing rod, catch a fish with a hook around the mouth and drag it in using a gaff? We have the same thing. There is no protection, no protection at all.
But there is protection for our first nations. There always seems to be a protection for them, unfortunately, because they are allowed to do whatever they want to do if it is given to them according to the treaties and so on that they have under what is now part of our Constitution. If that treaty allows them to be inhumane, then this act allows them to continue to be inhumane. They get the special exemption. We have to ask ourselves why. Why them and not us?
Today's Globe and Mail tells us that thousands of chickens in British Columbia were slaughtered because one had avian flu. We say that was the right thing to do. The rest of those chickens were not sick, but they were all viciously slaughtered in the name of protecting our health. According to this bill, that could be construed as being a vicious and wilful slaughter of animals.
We have all watched the debate about fox hunting in the United Kingdom, where the poor fox is chased through the countryside by people on horses until it is run into the ground and viciously pulled apart by the dogs. That is inhumane. That should not be allowed. I am glad that the United Kingdom has finally got its act together. I am glad we do not do that here in Canada. That should never be allowed.
This bill must be amended to clearly state what is legitimate, what is lawful, what is a part of our society, and what this society abhors. There is no distinction in this bill. Therefore, the bill needs to be amended. I do not see why the bill should go forward.
Of course, the Liberals will go out during the election and say, “We tried once more. Guess what? Other people were holding it up”. I do not see people holding it up. We are only asking for reason for farmers, fishermen and sporting people, who are lawfully doing what many Canadians do every day. We go to the store and we buy the meat. We buy the chicken and we buy the fish and that is part of the way we live. We say it is done humanely, but I say that killing animals is a brutal process. Anyone who has ever been to a slaughterhouse will know that it is not a pretty sight, but that is the way our society lives.
Let us respect these people who make their living that way, the people who feed society, who feed us, who feed Canadians and who feed the rest of the world.
I would hope that this government is serious about protecting animals. I hope the government is serious about outlawing inhumane behaviour, rather than every time just before an election deciding to have a little debate to say it is trying to do something and then blaming Parliament because the government really does not want to do anything. Unfortunately, that is becoming patently clear.