NEW YORK May 29, 2016/ Troy Media/ – The concerted push for the formal recognition of non-human rights is slowly gaining momentum. Courts around the world are becoming receptive to hearing cases and considering the question of whether to extend rights of personhood – most especially to the great apes.
Putting aside the specifics of that species, the general issue of an evolving status for animals that would see them become something more than property is an area crying out for a national government – somewhere – to take the lead and set itself up as a model for other nations to follow.
Canada could be in a position to lead should it decide it wished to do so. Leadership on this issue would require none of the usual accoutrements of international power that much of history has recognized as persuasive.
It is an issue that requires no armies to make other nations quiver and cower; it does not require weapons of any kind. It does not require riches or vast reserves of gold, silver or diamonds. It requires a much rarer but much more precious treasure – it requires the kind of forethought and vision that has distinguished humankind since the dawn of history.
Much harm has been done to the cause of animal rights and animal welfare through well-meaning but misguided individuals and organizations who have been too strident in their condemnations and too unreasonable in their demands.
When faced with such a cacophony of censure it is not surprising that many individuals, institutions and corporations dig in their heels. They become resistant to change simply because self-preservation and resentment force them to ignore the charges of well-intentioned groups that can sometimes behave as an unruly mob.
Nothing of value is accomplished under those circumstances or conditions. That inertia should be of concern to all self-proclaimed lovers of animals and the natural world, since ultimately it is the animals themselves who will bear the burden of human stubbornness as delays in improving their legal status continue to directly affect their well-being, care and welfare.
So, as a starting point to achieving something of real value, let’s agree that a national government is best positioned to begin this process; otherwise, we would end up with a patchwork of regulations that change with geography.
Let that government establish a committee with the general mandate of investigating how best to fulfill our roles as a co-occupier of the natural world with other living things. Empower it with making non-binding recommendations on legislation, timetables, aspirations and prospects of international cooperation on this issue.
In other words, have them take the lay of the land and project forward into the future with actual hard, evidence based on non-emotional investigation and study. To put it in the plainest of terms – where we’re at, where we’ve been and where we’re going.
I can’t think of a new government in Canadian history better positioned than the Liberals under Justin Trudeau to take this kind of proactive approach to what any forward-thinking person must surely realize will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century.
The beauty of it is in its very Canadian-style approach. There is no need to take immediate action legislatively, no need to instantly deal with the shame and embarrassment of our annual seal slaughter. Not yet.
By forming this parliamentary committee, we simply announce to the world that we are throwing our toques into the ring and will be an international leader in defining animal rights.
Humans and animals have been intertwined for literally the entire breadth of time. It has been a multi-faceted relationship of utility, dominance, exploitation, inter-dependence and companionship.
We may not expect to see revolutionary change overnight. But, change is coming. If governments don’t act, that change will come from the courts.
It would be nice if – just once – a government acted before it was forced to do so through judicial ruling.
It would be especially sweet if that government was Canada’s.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a U.S based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day. Gavin is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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