November 29, 2019
Last month I had the opportunity to attend the first Canadian Animal Law conference, which was held at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law. As the only member of the East Coast Environmental Law staff without formal legal training, I had initial reservations about being East Coast Environmental Law’s representative at the conference, as I anticipated that a great deal of the material would be over my head. In the end, I managed to banish these fears and dive wholeheartedly into the weekend.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Peter Singer, whose lifework as a moral philosopher has been to explore concepts including utilitarianism, effective altruism, pain and suffering, and animal sentience. As a great advocate and influential mind of the modern animal liberation movement, Singer opened the conference with a lecture focusing on livestock animals and the regulations that dictate their living conditions. Singer thoroughly covered living conditions in factory farms for cows, pigs, and chickens, comparing the regulations in Canada to those in the United States (particularly California’s notably progressive governance), Australia, England, Austria, and Switzerland.
Whether we realize it or not, food is something that is deeply personal for many of us. Food is intrinsically connected to our personal identities, our cultures, and our traditions. When it comes to the animals that we consume for food, it often takes very little for well-intentioned conversations to quickly escalate to triggered confrontation. What I admired most about Singer’s lecture was that he didn’t focus on one choice, such as veganism, as the unequivocal solution to end environmental devastation, animal suffering, and the factory farming model. Instead, his lecture was open-ended and carried a feeling of inclusivity: however you define your dietary habits (whether you consider yourself a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, plant-based consumer, ethical omnivore, etc.) most people, when faced with the realities of the appalling standards to which we currently subjugate the majority of our farm animals, can agree that there are many responsible and compassionate alternatives and endless possibilities for reform.
Regulatory reform is one broad method for ensuring that animals which are raised for consumption live a less painful and more dignified life. Legal reform creates a scenario where the oppressive system is held accountable and forced to innovate, where personal dietary choices may no longer be scrutinized, and where polarization between plant-based and animal product consumers may occur less.
We currently live in a highly globalized world in which trade across borders happens at a tremendous rate. It is for this reason that animal rights in the context of international law requires thoughtful consideration. During one of the weekend’s panel discussions, “Global Perspectives on Animal Law”, we heard from animal protection advocates from Canada, Switzerland, and Austria. During this panel discussion, it became apparent how diverse animal law is from nation to nation and how pertinent it is to have overarching global standards that govern animal welfare. Due to global trade and lack of consistent international animal welfare regulations, we do not have a clear picture of how the animals we consume are treated. For example, nations with seemingly more progressive regulations concerning the living conditions of laying hens might look good on paper, but, in reality, that country may outsource the majority of their eggs from another country with more lax regulations due to the cheaper cost of production.
For more information on animal law and regulations pertaining to particular nations, The Animal Protection Index is a great resource. Produced by World Animal Protection, it ranks 50 countries around the globe according to their legislation and policy commitments to protecting animals.
During the keynote plenary panel discussion, “The Intersectional Future of Animal Law”, the members of the panel shared their unique perspectives on the intersectionality of animal law with Indigenous law, environmental law, and numerous movements for justice and sovereignty, including Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+, and Me Too. While these struggles are all inherently different and those fighting in these movements are uniquely oppressed, the panel participants concluded that the commonalities connecting these struggles together give them greater strength in solidarity.
Perhaps the main take-away from the Animal Law Conference for me was that animal rights, if they are to effectively be improved, require a nuanced and inclusive approach. The dialogue around animal rights is a highly complex and multifaceted issue. An animal rights conversation is simultaneously an ethical conversation, a poverty conversation, an Indigenous right conversation, a gender conversation, an accessibility conversation, a political conversation, a classist conversation, and an environmental conversation.
Taylor Milne, East Coast Environmental Law Communications Coordinator and Office Manager
Tricia is a mom, environmentalist and a lawyer. She holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Biology from the University of Victoria. Before starting law school, she developed her love for the environment through her work with the Land Conservancy in Penticton, British Columbia and an Outdoor Leadership Semester at the Yamnuska Mountaineering School in Canmore, Alberta. In 2005, she graduated with a Bachelor of Laws, specializing in environmental law from Dalhousie University. While a law student, she co-chaired the Environmental Law Students’ Society and earned the Elizabeth May Award for Environmental Service. Tricia practiced law for 5 years in Halifax and was a founding board member of East Coast Environmental Law. She has been a full-time caregiver for 8-years and during her time away from office work, she served on the board for Ecojustice, a national environmental law non-profit, and chaired the board in her final years. Tricia has also served on the boards of the Dalhousie Law School Alumni Association, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and co-chaired the Green Space Committee at her children’s elementary school.
November 7, 2019
This month, East Coast Environmental Law is pleased to be offering a free public legal education and workshop session on environmental impact assessment and mining in Nova Scotia.
DATE: Saturday, November 30th
TIME: 1:00PM - 5:00PM (Doors open at 12:45)
LOCATION: Room 150 of the Collaborative Health Education Building (Dalhousie)– 5793 University Ave., Halifax, NS
Registration is required.
Join us for a free public legal education session on environmental impact assessment and mining in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia has one operating gold mine and four proposed mines currently undergoing environmental assessment. Communities are concerned about the potential health, social, economic and environmental impacts of a Nova Scotian gold rush. Federal and provincial environmental impact assessment processes provide an important opportunity for communities, groups and individuals to engage but the process can be complicated.
In this session, staff lawyers from East Coast Environmental Law will present information and facilitate discussion on federal and provincial assessment processes, including the new Impact Assessment Act.
During this session, we will explore questions including:
• What are the different stages of an environmental assessment?
• What is the difference between a federal and provincial assessment?
• How are environmental assessment decisions made?
• How can members of the public participate in an environmental assessment?
• How will federal assessment change under the new Impact Assessment Act?
The session will also include time to address questions around gold mining and environmental assessment in the province.
East Coast Environmental Law is an environmental law charity based in Nova Scotia and working on issues of concern to Atlantic Canadians. Our work is centered around ensuring environmental laws in Atlantic Canada are founded on responsible, transparent and inclusive decision-making. We encourage the development and fair application of innovative and effective environmental laws through: Public Education; Collaboration; and Legal Action.
Light refreshments will be served.
Registration is required.
Tickets are available here.
For a map of the campus, click here.