AR-News(Canada) Senators, judges insensitive to animal welfare
sjcarlson at shaw.ca
Sat Jun 21 14:15:06 EDT 2003
Senators, judges insensitive to animal welfare
Saturday, June 21, 2003
If senators were animals instead of human beings, they'd unquestionably be dinosaurs.
Members of the upper house are several millenia out of touch with prevailing public sentiment when it comes to protecting animals from suffering.
The public, perhaps through their pets, are coming to better understand animals as sensitive creatures that have thoughts and feel pain.
Increasingly, people question why they coddle and nurture their own pets as they do while abandoning farm and other animals to miserable fates.
Why, for example, do we spend $200 to have the vet clean our dog's teeth but shrug when cattle are branded, de-horned and castrated without anaesthetic?
Most folks don't want to hear about animal suffering. No doubt, if we had to personally kill animals to feed ourselves, more of us would be vegetarian.
Senators giving sober second thought to a bill on animal cruelty chose this week to focus not on the need to protect animals for the sake of the animals, but rather to protect the right of human beings to exploit animals for their own purposes.
As a result of the senators' intransigence and myopia, the federal animal cruelty bill once again has hit a brick wall.
This legislation has been amended, debated and referred from one parliamentary house to another for so long -- nearly four years -- it has become a joke.
The latest: The Senate wanted changes to water down the bill's impact and sent it back to the Commons for amendment. Earlier this month the Commons accepted some, not all, of the requested amendments and returned it to senators for final approval. The Senate Thursday refused its approval until the Commons weakens the bill to its full satisfaction.
The Commons broke for summer recess last week, so the bill will languish until September. At that point the Liberal leadership race will be a major preoccupation and it's doubtful much legislation will get passed.
How despicable that the Senate, elected by no one, has taken it upon itself to protect every conceivable interest except that of the animals.
"Senators will have animal blood on their hands," says a press release from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.
(Senate government leader: Sharon Carstairs: carsts at sen.parl.gc.ca.)
The bill's intent isn't to penalize farmers or fishermen; it's to toughen penalties for those who would unnecessarily cause animals to suffer or die.
Getting this bill passed would be just a baby step toward giving animals greater consideration. Beyond passing the animal cruelty bill, Canadian judges badly need to be sensitized.
Recent court judgments relating to atrocious examples of animal cruelty suggest some judges are ready to give animal torturers second chances they don't deserve. In so doing, these judges risk losing public confidence.
Take the case of Shawn Miner, 18. In 2001 he ransacked a Nepean home, bludgeoning to death the family's hamster using a golf club. Mr. Miner also emptied a fish tank in the home and filleting 11 fish with a butcher knife. Ontario Superior Court Judge Albert Roy sentenced Mr. Miner to four months in jail.
Another truly revolting case involves Jesse Power, a Toronto Ontario College of Art student who the same year hung a little housecat from a wire affixed to the ceiling and proceeded to slice the cat's throat with a razor blade. The cat cried out, twitched and howled in agony. Mr. Power then slit open the cat's chest. He was accompanied in the deed by two friends, Anthony (Ryan) Wennekers and Matt Kaczorowski.
Ontario Court of Appeal Judge David Doherty last week upheld a 90-day jail sentence -- to be served on weekends! -- for Mr. Power from an earlier court ruling. After suggesting the existing six-month maximum penalty for animal cruelty to animals is "wholly inadequate," this judge bizarrely upheld a three-month sentence.
Shame on these judges; they don't get it. Neither do the senators.
Canadians cannot allow judges to show leniency toward those capable of such raw evil. Nor should we permit senators to shirk their responsibility to foster a society where gratuitous cruelty is anathema.
If we do, it sure doesn't say much about our own species.
byaffe at png.canwest.com
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