For many, seal clubbing conjures a fantastical image of scantily clad sea mammals twerking on a Friday night. To others, it has a much more sinister tone. As Quebec’s Agricultural Minister, Pierre Paradis, reveals his intentions to list animals as “sentient” beings, it seems as though Paradis is in the latter camp. His proposal to change the Quebec Civil Code to allow judges to admit evidence on the pain and suffering of animals in abuse cases will change the current system, whereby animals are seen as personal property much like “chairs or tables.” Though I do not blame him for this change (I certainly do not envy any judge who has to figure out the pain suffered by a piece of furniture), I do find fault in some of his reasoning.
He will change the Civil Code for two seemingly opposite, but apparently cooperative, reasons. The first is to rid Quebec of its glaring international reputation as one of the best places to be an animal abuser. The second is to help their agricultural industry become more competitive.
Though their reputation as a haven for animal abusers does have economic advantages, being able to dip into the large abuser vacation market, for example, Pierre Paradis has decided the benefits do not outweigh the cost. There goes the skiing, skating, and clubbing resort planned in the north of the province, not to mention the large advertisements in Animal Abusers Weekly and Time Magazine. One must instead think of the animals rather than the thousands of dollars brought in every year by abusing tourists. However, despite the dip in tourism, there are apparently economic benefits to the proposed changes.
Paradis stated that the commercial argument swayed him as much as the humanitarian one. If Quebec does not treat its animals better, he says, then it will be squeezed out of the market by competitors who do. How or why that would happen has yet to be explained. From any rational perspective, it is indeed obvious that the opposite is true. To force all farms in the province to increase the size of their cages and pens would force them to incur extra costs and lose already lagging competitiveness.
But, Paradis says, with future trade deals to be made with European nations who have already made these changes to their animal laws, Quebec will quickly be left behind and excluded if it does not as well. Officially, this isn’t true, since there is no clause within the trade deal that requires farmers to remember not to treat their animals as “chairs or tables.” However, this would have little effect as few farmers either sit on or eat off their animals.
The only foreseeable effect would be a lack of demand from consumers, but I think this presumes a lot of moral integrity from a recession-stricken continent who must decide whether to spend more money on food from friendly farms rather than farms whose cows are forced to wait patiently to be cleaned and used as a dining surface.
With these two reasons out of the way and the rational discussion over, one must judge the situation by how one feels about abused animals. Though I am sure an armchair would look despondent when held in a factory farm, unable to see sunlight, the thought of a sentient being in the same situation is worth a little frivolous legislation. Consequently, it is with exhausted logic that I back this change in the law, if only for the sake of the animals, and not the farmers or the furniture.