Federal Bill S-5 on Animal Testing Scrutinized During Second Reading

The Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Bill has passed second reading in the Senate. The proposed bill generally seeks to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to recognize that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment and that the Government of Canada must protect that right. The preamble of the bill states that the Government should work to reduce testing on animals. During the second reading debates on April 6th and 7th, Senator Pierre J. Dalphond highlighted the critique that although the preamble drew attention to animal testing, there ought to be specific provisions seeking to phase-out animal testing in Canada. Senator Dalphond reported that four Canadian animal protection organizations - Animal Justice, the Canadian Society for Humane Science, Humane Canada and Humane Society International/Canada - are working cooperatively to develop amendments to Bill S-5 that would address scientific testing on animals. He gave some examples of what the provisions may include, pointing to last-resort use of animal toxicity testing and asking whether protection should extend beyond vertebrates so as to “recognize evolving scientific knowledge about creatures like the amazing octopus, as profiled in the Academy Award-winning Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher.” He referred to the provision in the Civil Code of Quebec recognizing animals as sentient, as well as initiatives in the Senate to protect animals such as the legislation precluding the future captivity of whales and dolphins, a promised ban on the use of animals in cosmetics testing, and the proposed Jane Goodall Act, noting that “as scientific knowledge about animals increases, the circle of empathy towards them widens. In that regard, the Senate has played, and I hope will continue to play, an important role in enhancing respect for the species around us and in recognizing that, in the ecosystem that sustains us, they deserve our respect, as First Nations peoples understood long before us.” Read the text of the bill here, the status of the bill here, and Senator Dalphond’s speech here.