Manifesto for the Evolution of Animals’ Legal Status in the Civil Code of Quebec

Like most people, we believe that animals are not toasters. This view, however, is not shared by our Civil Code. From a legal standpoint, a dog or a cow is no different than a toaster or a chair: all are considered moveable property. Quebec law thus assimilates the act of hurting or abusing an animal to the destruction of property. Not only is this concept morally questionable, but it also clashes with how the majority of Quebec citizens think.

Likening animals to things also means ignoring the current state of scientific knowledge. Animals’ capacity to feel pain is now the object of broad consensus, at the very least when it comes to vertebrates. As research progresses, we are increasingly discovering cognitive and emotional capabilities in animals that are much more complex than once thought – and this holds true not only for primates, dolphins, and dogs, but also for cows, rats, and pigeons.

Animals are not things nor machines, but rather they are sentient beings whose lives matter to them. It is therefore legitimate to consider their interests and moral worth when making decisions about them.

We are well aware that our proposal conflicts with certain traditions, force of habit, and the notion that animals exist solely to serve human interests. Yet, we also believe that mentalities have evolved and that it is time to undertake this reform that is both legitimate and just.

Our province is particularly weak when it comes to legal protection for animals. Indeed, Quebec ranks as the worst province in Canada in terms of animal welfare legislation.

In 2014, it has become urgent to break free from the Civil Code’s categories and to grant animals a legal status that is distinct from that of moveable property, and that takes into account their capacity to feel pleasure and pain – to grant them, in short, the status of sentient being.

Nicolas Basque, musician (Plants and Animals)
Josée Blanchette, journalist
Léa Clermont-Dion, journalist and director
Martine Delvaux, author and professor of literature (UQAM)
Élise Desaulniers, author
Alanna Devine, Director of animal advocacy, Montreal SPCA
Anne Dorval, actress
Jacques Godin, actor
Me Anne-France Goldwater, lawyer (Goldwater, Dubé)
Stevan Harnad, Canada research chair in cognitive science (UQAM)
Jean-Thomas Jobin, comedian
Martine Lachance, Directrice du Groupe de recherche en droit animal (GRIDA)
Georges Laraque, Former hockey player and activist
Claudia Larochelle, television host and author
Jacques Languirand, television and radio host, playwright and actor
Nat Lauzon, radio host

Franco Lepore, Canada research chair in cognitive neuroscience (Université de Montréal)
Pascale Lévesque, journalist
Marie Soleil Michon, television host
Joëlle Morin, actress
Christian Nadeau, professor of philosophy (Université de Montréal)
Annie-Soleil Proteau, television host
Gilles Proulx, journalist and radio host
Benoît Roberge, television host and author
Michel Seymour, professor of philosophy (Université de Montréal)
Julie Snyder, television host and producer
Élise Turcotte, author
Patricia Tulasne, actress
Simon Tremblay Pepin, Ph.D. candidate in political science (York University)
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Daniel Weinstock, Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy
Laure Waridel, co-founder of Équiterre
Matthew Woodley, musician (Plants and Animals)
Marc Zaffran/Martin Winckler, physician and author

And many others signatories…