AuthorPeter Sankoff; Vaughan Black; Katie Sykes
Much can be ascertained about a civilized country
by the way its animals are treated.1
This epigram, which echoes words famously, though dubiously, attributed
to Mohandas Gandhi, is notable for a number of reasons. It is the opening
sentence of a recent Canadian court decision dealing with the sentencing
of Maple Lodge Farms, a corporation convicted of causing unnecessary
suering to farmed animals. That sentencing judgment, when combined
with the liability decision on which it is based, runs to  paragraphs.
The case involved f‌ieen days of hearings, and testimony from several
experts. This is a big expenditure of judicial and legal resources, especial-
ly considering that the animals involved were chickens, which have not
always attracted the interest of prosecutors to the extent that more cud-
dly, and supposedly more charismatic, creatures have. No other animal
welfare case in this country has come close to Maple Lodge in this regard.
Equally important is the sentiment itself. These words, and others found
throughout the judgment, acknowledge that treatment of animals, and by
extension legal regulation of the treatment of animals, is of deep signif‌i-
cance. Such thoughts would be unremarkable in an essay by an animal
R v Maple Lodge Farms,  ONCJ  at para , Kastner J [Maple Lodge]. Gandhi is
frequently quoted as having said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Possibly he did, but there is no
reliable source for it, which may explain why Kastner J made no mention of him.
This is a sentencing decision. The judgment in which the defendant was convicted
was reported several months earlier: R v Maple Lodge Farms,  ONCJ .

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