Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend the Criminal Code in respect to the cruelty of animals.
I know most of us in the House have been approached by many of our constituents profoundly and deeply concerned about the protection of animals, in particular cruelty to animals. I venture to say that all of us in the House are firmly opposed to the cruelty to animals. It is a motherhood and apple pie type of issue.
The challenge we had though was trying to ensure that we had a confined piece of legislation that worked and was able to prevent cruelty to animals. That it would prevent those heinous actions that are committed by people who must be psychologically deranged to harm animals in that way. However, we also wanted to have legislation that would enable us to protect and ensure that the normal use of animals, be it by farmers or in research, would be carried on without the fear of prosecution. That, indeed, was the challenge that we had.
I think we have come up with a bill that strikes a balance. Over the last while we have shared and worked with groups, be they in agriculture and farming, or in the scientific and research sector, or the pharmaceutical areas, to craft a bill that was able to balance those needs. Normal activities would not be prosecuted, but only those actions that are taken by certain individuals. I might add that we know that those individuals, particularly when they are younger and commit acts of violence against animals, torture or even killing animals in a heinous fashion, are actually harbingers of future psychological problems and in fact future violence.
In other words, the actions by the young who commit these atrocious acts of violence against animals is a red flag, a harbinger of things that could come in the future, and particularly more egregious violent acts that take place against humans.
Some interesting studies have been done in fact to map this out. Good scientific research has been done to demonstrate this, so we now watch for those children and young people who are engaging in acts of violence against animals. We now know that we have to be very careful and engage these young people in a way that should offset and prevent future violent actions that we see sometimes in adults.
They study looked at populations of sadistic murderers, sadists, those who have committed violent acts against adults. Research has found that a majority of those adults who were incarcerated in jails for committing those violent acts, if we look back in their history, started off committing violent acts against animals when they were younger. They would torture the family pet, kill the family pet or kill other pets in the areas. I think the public at long last will be very happy with this bill.
In 2003 the other place made two amendments that the House adopted on this particular initiative. These two amendments were specifically requested by industry organizations. The reason, as I said before, was that these two amendments were there to satisfy their comfort level and their fear of prosecution.
For example, with regard to these two amendments, Canadian farmers said that they were 100% behind these two amendments and that this amended legislation was technically sound and was as strong as ever. With that, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture encouraged Parliament to pass this legislation. Unfortunately, the legislation then died in the other place which is where it continued to be paid attention to and the amendments were not requested or supported.
Let me fast forward a year. In November 2004, several months after the opening of Parliament, the Minister of Justice received a letter from a large coalition of industry groups that explicitly requested retabling of the animal cruelty amendments that had died. This group included a variety of organizations including the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, and it also included organizations involved in trapping such as the Canada Mink Breeders Association and the Fur Council of Canada.
It was also supported by other groups such as the Canadian Animal Health Institute, the Canadian Association for Laboratory Animal Science, and Canadian research based pharmaceutical groups as well as the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
We have heard from a wide variety of groups. We have passed these amendments through those groups. They have gained support among these groups. That is why they are in the House today.
These industry organizations wrote to the Minister of Justice before the legislation was tabled and specifically requested that these amendments be tabled and passed. That is why I hope, at the end of the day, members of the House will see that these particular amendments are apolitical, but are intended to protect animals within our country and that they are reasonable and balanced.
When the bill is studied in committee, I am sure committee members will be interested to hear what those groups have to say. I am also certain that the groups involved will reiterate their positions and the points I made here.
It is true that the coalition does not include hunting and fishing organizations, and that the anglers and hunters continue to express concerns. As a matter of logic, we could ask how it could be that animal researchers, agriculturalists, trappers and veterinarians all feel adequately comfortable that these amendments manage to strike a balance that enables the normal use of animals for food and other needs while on the other hand ensuring that we have legislative capabilities to arrest, prosecute and have the full force of the law applied to those individuals who commit heinous acts against innocent animals?
The simple matter is that hunters, animal researchers, veterinarians, farmers and trappers alike do not need to invoke any defence to justify their activities, but let us be clear about what the law actually prohibits. It only prohibits the wilful, reckless or criminally negligent affliction of pain that is known to be avoidable and unnecessary. In the case of the new offence, the law prohibits the intentional killing of an animal with brutal or vicious intent.
Let us think about that for a moment. If a person were to knowingly cause more pain to an animal than is necessary, if a person were to fall significantly below the reasonable standard of care, and if a person were to brutally or viciously intend to kill an animal, how could we not say that this person is engaged in wrongdoing?
I want to emphasize that we are excluding from this the normal activities of hunting, trapping, fishing, research, and the production of food products that are a normal aspect of civilized society.
These acts, though, must be punished. The reason why we are bringing the bill forward is that we cannot have a loophole in the legislation. We need to enable the courts to prosecute adequately those individuals who do commit acts of wanton violence and torture against animals. There are no excuses for that kind of behaviour.
The reality is that the vast majority of all industry participants take great care and cause no more pain than is required to meet their objectives. When the killing of an animal is required, the intention of such a person is one of respect toward that animal and the humanity expressed by that person. They kill the animal with a method known to be effective, quick and relatively painless.
If this is the case, there is no cruelty and therefore there is no crime. The humane use and killing of animals is not a crime, but simply a fact of life since the beginning of time. The Menard case, the leading case on cruelty to animals, makes perfectly clear that in an industry setting, causing only necessary pain is not a crime.
Let me say a few words, if I may, about concerns that have been expressed about the offence of brutality or viciousness in the killing of an animal. It has been said that the phrase “regardless of whether the animal died instantly” must be removed because it precludes the person who caused immediate death as some kind of offence and could be charged.
Let me conclude by saying that I think in principle, most members, if they read the legislation, can see that we have tried to strike a balance. The objectivity of it can be found in the fact that groups that are involved in the use of animals and animal products, and in the killing of animals, support the bill. They recognize that on one hand we have to have the legislative capabilities to address and prosecute those who torture and kill animals needlessly and on the other hand protect those who kill animals under law abiding activities in this country, including hunting, fishing, trapping and research.