Closing Thoughts

AuthorLesli Bisgould
ProfessionAdjunct Professor, Faculty of Law
Today’s problems cannot be solved by thi nking the way we t hought
when we created them.
— Albert Einst ein
What strikes one most about the profound violence to which so many
animals a re subjected in modern Canadi an society is how utterly ordin-
ary it is. That is why anti-cr uelty laws have proved unable to diminish
that violence in any meaning ful way. The word “cruelty,” both as the
title of crimin al offences against animals, and as the general m anner
in which unacceptable treatment of animals is commonly described,
protects the routine practices that are common in a given activity by
drawing out for condemnation only singular acts of extraordinar y be-
haviour. If many people f‌ind it convenient, enjoyable, or prof‌itable to do
things that hurt a nimals, those things are not legally cr uel. So long as
causing animals to suffer is not the only object of the act, the fact that
they suffer as a result becomes a lmost entirely irrelevant.
Cruelty connotes a malevolent intention that creates too high and
constrained a stand ard. Many criminal offences could be s aid to involve
cruelty as it is generally understood breaking in to a person’s home,
theft of a person’s treasured belongings, kidnapping, assault, murder,
and so on. Yet there is no additional legal element of “cruelty” to cast
an interpretive shadow over those or any other crimes. The term is a
legal anachronism th at dates from the time the relationship between
humans and anim als was f‌irst codif‌ied, a time when animals were seen

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