As the animal-rights movement gains momentum, some clear and broad-minded thinking is called for. In The Globe's Life section on Tuesday, the conspicuous Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby told Rebecca Dube, "It's much like gay rights were 25 years ago." The apparent comparison between the status of non-human animals and that of homosexual human beings is bizarre. Gays fought long and hard for their legal rights to pensions and marriage, for instance. Twenty-five years from now, animals will not be celebrating on the steps of courthouses.
In the same article, Daphne Gilbert of the University of Ottawa is quoted as raising the question of the status of animals as property. A measured approach to this issue appears in a private member's bill, from the Liberal MP for Ajax-Pickering, Mark Holland. This bill has been introduced before, but has never quite made it through both Houses of Parliament.
Rightly, Bill C-373 does not try to expropriate animals that are owned. Rather, it would move the animal-cruelty provisions of the Criminal Code out of the part of the Code dealing with crimes against property, into a separate part. This would make clear that wild animals, which no human being (or corporation) owns, are protected against cruelty, too. That would not cancel out property rights.
[Globe and Mail]
'The question is not, 'Can they reason?' " philosopher Jeremy Bentham famously wrote in his 18th-century defence of animal rights, "nor, 'Can they talk?' but, 'Can they suffer?' "
The new question might be: Can they sue?
Animal law classes are the hot new offering at Canadian law schools. The University of Toronto and Queen's University will both start teaching animal law this fall, joining at least six other Canadian universities where dogs and cats are already on the curriculum.
Some experts compare animal law today to environmental law in the 1970s - just emerging from its reputation as a special-interest niche (with a tinge of left-wing loony) to become a solid discipline that is widely accepted and potentially lucrative for practitioners.
Prominent Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby favours another comparison: "It's much like gay rights were 25 years ago. People sense this is going to be an area of importance in the future."
Lesli Bisgould, a lawyer who focused on animal-rights law for years, will teach the University of Toronto class. "All of a sudden the tide has turned and people are saying, 'This is important,' " Ms. Bisgould says. "Right now is the birth of this concept in Canada - it's really coming to life."