Although the suffering of animals has, in recent years, led to the emergence of multidisciplinary reflection on the animal condition, legislative initiatives undertaken or planned in Quebec and Canada are, unfortunately, still based on false and even negative perceptions about animals. Trapped within the rigid structure of civil law, which does not recognize animals as persons, animals are treated as chattel goods that are subject to abuse. We must therefore ask ourselves some serious questions, whether, in the twenty-first century, the law shall continue to maintain the "machine-animal" theory, an ethological hypothesis that emerged from classical theories of the mechanistic movement, which postulated that animals do not suffer any more than they think (Descartes).
In both Quebec and Canada, the protection of animals against unnecessary suffering is subject to a very limited legal framework. Such a framework is limited mainly to biomedical experimentation, factory farming, and even trapping, which form a continuum of practices that are rarely challenged, because they appear to be indispensable to the survival and the culture of humankind. Such practices, based on the argument of necessity, make it difficult to propose legal rules designed to protect animals from unnecessary suffering. This fact creates a legal space where the State tolerates some acts of cruelty, where pain and suffering are inflicted on animals as part of a legitimate activity. Whenever "it is of economic interest, there is no limit to the use or improper treatment of animals" (Francione).
Now more than ever, the time has come to seriously examine the question of animal suffering and, more importantly, to react to it. This was the motivation that persuaded Professor Martine Lachance to create GRIDA - the International Research Group in Animal Law.
Bill 54, introduced on June 5 by the Minister Pierre Paradis (MAPAQ), will change the legal status of animals in the Civil Code of Quebec. The bill that défines animals as beings that have feelings and biological needs, rather than movable properties, will be subject to a public consultation process on September 2015. GRIDA is among organizations that have been invited to express its view on the proposed changes. (August, 2015)
Animal Sentience [ASent] is the first journal to focus on the capacity of nonhuman animals to feel. ASent is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary and open-access journal. ASent is a publication of the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy (HSISP). (August, 2015)
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