A First for Animal Rights at the Supreme Court!

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For the first time in Canada, animal rights were defended at the Supreme Court on November 9th. Animal Justice appeared as an intervener in the case to ensure that animals’ interests be well represented at the hearing.

The appeal to the Supreme Court focuses mainly on the interpretation of section 160 of the Criminal Code and how we should determine the scope of the concept of bestiality, that being sexual intercourse between a human and an animal.

Current common law prohibits any form of “unnatural” vaginal or anal penetration by penis on a human or an animal. This concept refers mainly to buggery and bestiality.

Felipe Posada, Camille Labchuck and Justine Perron

Felipe Posada, Camille Labchuck and Justine Perron

D.L.W, the accused in the case, allegedly coerced his dog into licking the plaintiff’s genital area (the plaintiff was 16 years old at the time) by applying peanut butter on her genitals. He based his defence on the argument that penetration during a sexual act is an essential element for him to be found guilty. We can easily understand why the Crown argued that bestiality is not limited to intercourse.

The issue before the Supreme Court was:

“Whether the offence bestiality under s. 160(1) of the Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, is a general intent offence which encompasses sexual activity of any kind between a human and an animal with penetration not being an essential element of the offence.“

The interpretative difficulty of this section 160 is based on the fact that bestiality has only been pleaded in past cases where penetration occurred. The Supreme Court has not delivered a considerable number of judgments addressing this charge. Therefore, the Supreme Court is now faced with an issue with almost no pre-existing judgments.

It should be added that in 1985, the offence of “buggery and bestiality” was separated into two sections: section 159 and section 160 of the Criminal Code. To be found guilty of the offence, penetration is a necessary element. Was the lawmaker’s intention to dissociate the two concepts in order to give them a distinctive and independent interpretation?

Animal Justice endeavours to prove to the judges of the Supreme Court that is essential to give a progressive interpretation to the concept of bestiality. The consequence of restricting the interpretation of the section in question will only allow animals to become victims of any form of sexual act, which is not considered an abuse. We could think of oral sex, among other things, which does not cause any pain to the animal. But is it morally appropriate to use our own dog as a mere sexual object? To ask ourselves this question is to answer it.

In my opinion, it is in everyone’s interest that the Supreme Court rules in favour of the Crown, of a voice that cannot make itself heard.

It is however important to point out the historic importance of Animal Justice’s intervention during the trial. For the first time, a group fighting to protect non-human living creatures was heard during a hearing at the highest court of Canada.

Animal Justice lawyers acknowledge that the Court will probably not rule in their favour. However, the simple fact that they had the opportunity to defend animal rights before such a high court is considered a victory in itself.

JustinePerronUofOJustine Perron, Civil Law 3rd year student and

President of the Association for the Protection of Animals

Ottawa University

 

The Guy

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