Hon. E. D. Fulton (Minister of Justice):
Mr. Speaker, later this morning I shall be introducing a bill to amend the Criminal Code with regard to the humane slaughtering of food animals. It is the intention to give this bill first reading only and I should like to make a statement now to advise the house of our plans.
For some time there has been a growing demand for action that would compel the slaughterers of food animals to adopt a humane method of killing. The concern has been mainly that these animals are subjected to shackling, hoisting, bleeding, or other processes connected with slaughtering while they are still fully conscious. Special humane slaughter associations have been formed and these, together with the various branches of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, have spearheaded the drive for legislation to make humane methods of slaughter mandatory.
The previous government took the position that no further legislation was necessary; that the present section 387 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, and that all that was required was enforcement of this legislation. However, a test case involving the usual slaughter methods in an abattoir came before a magistrate in Vancouver this fall and was dismissed. The decision was appealed, but the appeal was also dismissed. This demonstrated pretty conclusively that something more is required, and we are prepared to act accordingly.
There are difficulties in this field which all have recognized. There are questions as to what type of action or legislation is called for by the government, and at what level of government, and whether a method or methods of humane slaughter exist which it would be sound, from a practical and economic point of view, to require the slaughterers to follow.
A special committee was formed in the province of Ontario to study these problems,
including representatives from the meat packers' council of Canada and the Ontario
S.P.C.A. The government made available two of its experts in the field, and more recently the national research council has joined in a full-scale investigation program.
The government welcomed the formation of this committee and looked forward to its advice. We were concerned to avoid action which would produce legislation which would either be simply unenforced and unenforceable or, alternatively, if enforced would simply result in driving a number of packers out of business. At the suggestion of the committee action was accordingly deferred until they might have an opportunity to report.
An interim report was received from the committee on October 31, and on November 13 my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and I, together with our parliamentary assistants and departmental officers, met with the joint chairmen and other representatives of the committee.
At that meeting we were advised that while no complete solution to the problem of method so far as hogs and sheep are concerned had been agreed upon as being immediately practicable for universal action in Canada, nevertheless such methods do exist. We were also advised that there was agreement that humane methods of slaughter of cattle could immediately be enforced. It was also clear that the committee felt that action by government is essential.
The committee is to continue its study on the same basis as before, with the full assistance of the government experts and the national research council. In this connection I find that I must make a correction in a statement I made on December 10. It was my understanding as a result of that meeting, that the S.P.C.A. representatives felt there was nothing further they could usefully do, having made clear their views as to the necessity for legislation. I am glad to find that they are continuing as members of the committee, and that the committee is functioning fully.
There is, then, general agreement that humane methods of slaughter exist and can be made applicable in Canada although there are still some problems to be solved. In considering our course of action we have had to bear the following factors in mind. First,
Ministerial Statements that there is a measure of divided responsibility, and that in any criminal legislation to be introduced we must bear in mind that the responsibility for enforcement rests with the provinces. Second, that hasty action on the part of the government might force out of business abattoirs and packing plants and could result in a shortage of such commodities as bacon, etc. Third, that impracticable or unenforceable legislation does more harm than good. Fourth, that the provinces have an interest in the matter especially from the point of view of enforcement, and therefore should be consulted.
We have accordingly drafted a bill which we believe to be practical and enforceable, first reading of which I shall be moving in a few moments. It is not the intention to proceed further with the bill at this session, but to make it available to all interested persons, including especially the attorneys general of the provinces. We shall welcome their views and suggestions as to the legislation, and also the views and suggestions of the packers and all those interested or involved in this problem.
All representations received will then be studied, and we shall be prepared to make such changes in the legislation as appear desirable in the light of those studies. After making such changes as are necessary we would propose to reintroduce and enact the legislation at the next session of parliament.
In this way we will hope to have sound legislation which will produce the desired result with a minimum of hardship and a maximum of co-operation.
Subtopic: ANNOUNCEMENT OP LEGISLATION RESPECTING HUMANE METHODS OF SLAUGHTER