TORONTO — Global charity World Animal Protection assessed the animal welfare policies and legislation of 50 countries and identified what it calls a continued lack of adequate animal welfare laws in its second edition of the Animal Protection Index (API).
Canada received a D, alongside other countries like Tanzania, Peru and the United States.
Sweden and the United Kingdom have the highest scores, though not one country has obtained an A grade (the highest score).
The organization says global animal welfare concerns range from intensive farming to wildlife markets and trade, all of which are proven threats of disease outbreak, such as the most recent global epidemic, the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In Canada, the low marks received were for not having adequate legislation protecting wildlife in captivity, working animals, farm animals, animals used in research and companion animals.
An estimated 1.4 million wild animals are kept as exotic pets in Canada.
Canada also ranks poorly for having no federal legislation to protect the welfare of animals on farms. According to World Animal Protection, farm animals are still raised in intensive systems, kept in barren, cramped conditions with little room to move and sometimes subjected to painful procedures such as having their teeth clipped, without pain relief.
While some policy improvements have been made for farm animals, such as phasing out battery cages for egg-laying hens, pregnancy crates for mother pigs and the tethering of dairy calves, these requirements are not legally mandated. Farm animal care in Canada is guided by the National Farm Animal Care Council‘s codes of practice, which World Animal Protection says means the agricultural industry is entrusted to police itself.
The report does acknowledge improvements made to federal regulations governing farm animal transport with more times for feed, water and rest. However, the charity says the new times have not decreased much from the originals, and the industry has also forced a two-year delay to meet those requirements. This means animals can still be transported for very long periods of time without feed, water or rest and continue to travel in freezing temperatures or extreme heat with no climate control in the vehicles, according to World Animal Protection.
Canada was also docked marks for not having a central authority responsible for developing an animal welfare policy and for not tracking or monitoring progress on animal welfare.
“We would like to see Canada pass animal welfare legislation that finally recognizes animals are sentient beings that can suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. The federal government should play a more active role, working with provinces and territories to ensure consistent protection for all animals across the country,” Campaign Director for World Animal Protection Canada, Melissa Matlow, said in a statement.
According to an Aug. 2019 nationally representative poll, 73% of Canadians believe it is important that the federal government passes stronger legislation to protect animals.
Since the first API report came out in 2014, Canada did make some improvements including banning animal fighting, bestiality, shark finning, and the keeping, breeding and capture of cetaceans (aquatic mammals) for public entertainment.