Charities, Animals, and Social Change: Charting a More Charitable Approach to Animal Advocacy

AuthorManeesha Deckha & Sarah Runyon
 
Charities, Animals, and Social Change:
Charting a More Charitable Approach to
Animal Advocacy
Maneesha Deckha & Sarah Runyon*
In most western jurisdictions “charity law is rooted in the common law
and anchored on the Statute of Charitable Uses .”In Canada, judicial and
legislative reluctance to depart from this seventeenth-century framework
has prompted critics to suggest that the law in this area is antiquated, in-
f‌lexible, incoherent, and unresponsive to our current social context. One
* This article was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council. The authors are grateful to Catherine George for her excep-
tional research assistance.
Kerry O’Halloran et al, “Charity Law Reforms: Overview of Progress Since ”
in Myles McGregor-Lowndes & Kerry O’Halloran, eds, Modernising Charity Law:
Recent Developments and Future Directions (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar,
) at  [O’Halloran et al, eds, “Reforms”].
Arthur Drache, a well-known Canadian charities expert, has gone so far as to say
that this reluctance to modernize means that “Canada remains in the Dark Ages
with no possibility of change in the foreseeable future” (Arthur Drache, “Sports
Ruling Keeps Canada in Dark Ages on Charity Law; Amateur Sport Is Desirable,
but Not Charitable” The National Post ( October ) FP). See also Andre
Picard, “Charities Blast Ottawa over Rules on Advocacy” The Globe and Mail (
October ) A, in which the Canadian laws applicable to charities are de-
scribed as “vague, outdated, poorly reasoned and inconsistently enforced”; Kerry
O’Halloran, Charity Law and Social Inclusion: An International Study (New York:
Routledge, ) – [O’Halloran, Inclusion]; and Richard Bridge, “The Law
240     
area where the disconnect manifests is in how “charity” is def‌ined, a topic
of vital signif‌icance to organizations seeking to acquire or maintain char-
itable status, as donors (presumably enticed by the prospect of receiving
tax credits for their donations) can receive tax credits only for donations
to organizations recognized as “charitable” by the Charities Directorate of
the Canada Revenue Agency according to its def‌inition.
This chapter addresses the impact of the centuries-old def‌inition of
charity in relation to present-day animal welfare organizations. Currently,
Canadian law holds that it is charitable to prevent cruelty to animals, but
not to rescue animals subject to vivisection or factory farming practices.
It is charitable to promote feelings of humanity and morality by relieving
the suering of animals, but not to focus on strengthening laws protecting
their welfare. Furthermore, the promotion of animal welfare will gener-
ally be recognized as charitable, but only where the charitable activities
benef‌it humans. These inconsistencies are the result of the law’s reliance
on outdated and anthropocentric principles; without modern reform, the
charitable realm will continue to be a hostile and confusing place for those
working on behalf of animals. With the  release of the Canada Revenue
Agency’s (CRA) Charities Directorate’s guidelines for the charitable regis-
tration of animal welfare organizations, a number of the problems facing
of Advocacy by Charitable Organizations: The Case for Change” in Charities and
Not-for-Prot Organizations: Materials Prepared for the Continuing Legal Education
Seminar, Advising Not-for-Prot Organizations and Charities (Vancouver: Continu-
ing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, ) ss ..–...
See Kernaghan Webb, Cinderella’s Slippers? The Role of Charitable Tax Status in
Financing Canadian Interest Groups (Vancouver: SFU-UBC Centre for the Study of
Government and Business, ).
Canada Revenue Agency, Promotion of Animal Welfare and Charitable Registration
(Ottawa: CRA, ), ss  and .., online: Canadian Revenue Agency www.cra-arc. [CRA Guidelines].
National Anti-Vivisection Society v Inland Revenue Commissioners, [] AC 
[NAV S], followed in Re Wedge Estate, [] BCJ No  (CA).
Re Wedgwood; Allen v Wedgwood, []  Ch  [Wedgwood], followed in British
Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v Barr, [] BCJ No 
(CA); and Re Smith, []  DLR  (BCCA).
CRA Guidelines, above note , s  question .
Ibid at – and –. Similar “ironic conclusions” have been acknowledged by
Adam Parachin in relation to charitable activity concerning abortion, war, and
torture: Adam Parachin, “Distinguishing Charity and Politics: The Judicial Think-
ing behind the Doctrine of Political Purpose” () : Alta L Rev  at –.
 See CRA Guidelines, above note .
Chapter : Charities, Animals, and Social Change 241
animal charities — and potential routes for reform — have become clearer.
This article explores these issues, both in the context of judicial decision
making and the CRA’s administrative application of the law, in order to ex-
pose the anthropocentric, archaic thinking that animates these problems,
and to suggest a route forward for animals and charity.
It is critical to note the underlying current that undermines the ability
of charities law to develop into a responsive legal arena for animals. As
with all other areas of Canadian law, it is premised upon an animal welfare
approach that “does not ground rights” but rather, in accordance with an
anthropocentric logic, holds that “animals may be sacrif‌iced to advance
total welfare. This welfarist approach is in contrast to the animal rights
view, which “embodies a strong claim of equality, namely, that animals
with equivalent morally relevant capacities have equal rights, regard-
less of species membership. In contrast to animal rights organizations,
whose mandates typically involve working to end the human use and ex-
ploitation of animals, animal welfare organizations work toward better
treatment for animals in the course of their use by humans. A thorough
exposition of the distinctions between animal welfare and animal rights is
beyond the scope of this analysis. It is necessary, however, to highlight
the fact that, without a pronounced legislative shi toward the animal
rights approach, the well-founded criticisms launched against this area of
the law are unlikely to be addressed in full. Nevertheless, there is scope
for some meaningful reform vis-à-vis the charitable treatment of animal
protection organizations, even under the current welfarist paradigm, and
it is toward the actualization of this reform that this chapter is directed.
Section B of this analysis oers a brief overview of the development
of charities law in Canada and explores the negative impact of this legal
 Elizabeth Anderson, “Animal Rights and the Values of Nonhuman Life” in Cass
Sunstein & Martha C Nussbaum, eds, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New
Directions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, )  at .
 Ibid.
 Elizabeth L DeCoux, “Speaking for the Modern Prometheus: The Signif‌icance of
Animal Suering to the Abolition Movement” ()  Animal L  at –.
 For a detailed analysis of the animal rights versus animal welfare debate see Gary
Francione, Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, ) [Francione, Rain]; and Gary Fran-
cione & Robert Garner, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition Or Regulation? (New
York: Columbia University Press, ).

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