Newspaper article The Canadian Press

High Court's Bestiality Ruling Sparks Calls for Stronger Animal-Protection Laws

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

High Court's Bestiality Ruling Sparks Calls for Stronger Animal-Protection Laws

Article excerpt

Bestiality ruling sparks calls for new law


OTTAWA - Animal-rights advocates -- including a Toronto Liberal MP -- say a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the bestiality acquittal of a British Columbia man underscores the need for stronger laws.

WARNING: Contents may disturb some readers

The high court decision Thursday narrowly defines the crime of bestiality as penetration involving a person and an animal -- meaning it doesn't cover other forms of sexual activity.

At issue was whether updates to the Criminal Code in 1955 and 1988 altered the long-standing definition of the crime.

"The term 'bestiality' has a well-established legal meaning and refers to sexual intercourse between a human and an animal," Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell wrote on behalf of the majority in the 6-1 ruling. "Penetration has always been understood to be an essential element of bestiality."

Cromwell found nothing in the legislative evolution and history that indicated a change in meaning.

"Parliament may wish to consider whether the present provisions adequately protect children and animals. But it is for Parliament, not the courts, to expand the scope of criminal liability for this ancient offence."

The court's decision reflects the sorry state of Canada's animal-protection laws, said Camille Labchuk, executive director of the group Animal Justice, which intervened in the case.

"I'm not surprised that the majority felt that it had to take this position, because our laws are so outdated and so bad," she said. "They need to be overhauled."

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said his private member's bill, now at second reading in the House of Commons, would bring the definition of bestiality in line with public expectations by criminalizing any sexual conduct between animal and human.

"Our Criminal Code is severely outdated with respect to animal-protection laws," he said. "And in my view today's decision is a call from the Supreme Court to Parliament to act."

In a statement, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Erskine-Smith's bill proposes significant amendments to the Criminal Code. …

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