• Carmen Marie Fabio

International animal welfare group praises Beaconsfield

News that the City of Beaconsfield had recently adopted its substantive animal welfare by-law was, apparently, far reaching as the international organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) announced it would be presenting the West Island city with its Compassionate City Award.

“PETA found out about the two initiatives adopted by Beaconsfield council,” said District 2 Councillor Karen Messier. “One that prohibits the sale of animals and the other was the animal welfare by-law.”

Following the Quebec National Assembly’s introduction of Bill 54 titled ‘An act to improve the legal situation of animals,’ the city introduced By-law BEAC-099 that recognizes animals as sentient beings who deserve protection. Unanimously adopted March 14, the by-law prohibits the sale of pets, travelling circuses that use animal acts, keeping animals tied up for longer than a three-hour period, and the operation of puppy and kitten mills. The by-law further makes it an offense to leave a dog in a car for longer than 15 minutes on a day when temperatures are below zero degrees or above 18 degrees Celsius.

“They (animals) have always deserved better,” reads the PETA email from its president, Ingrid E. Newkirk, “and now your city has demonstrated that it understands.”

“We don’t have circuses, or puppy mills here,” said Messier, “but the by-law adoption is symbolic to send a message that these things are wrong. I was hoping it would get some attention and that it would send a message to cities that do have activities and events that exploit animals. Exploitation of animals is cruelty in and of itself.” Messier said backing up the statements with concrete measures is what garnered the recognition.

“We’re just thrilled to be recognized with this,” said Messier and while she acknowledged the group is known for its extremism, its actions do raise awareness and given the scope of world problems, animal rights often get pushed aside.

Fines for contravening one of the by-laws are significant, reaching up to $7500 for a third offense under the cruelty portion of the by-law, plus administrative costs.

“Normally, at the municipal level, fines are not this steep,” said Messier. “We went the full mile on this to show that we mean business.”

The city also broached another animal welfare issue by passing a ‘Meatless Monday’ resolution at its March 21 council meeting.

“We’re not legislating what people eat,” said Messier of the unanimously adopted resolution that serves to raise awareness, comparing it to having the National Energy Board perform hydrostatic testing on Enbridge Pipeline’s 9B oil flow reversal project and Earth Hour, a symbolic hour not using electricity that is observed, typically during the last week of March each year.

Messier said the Meatless Monday resolution serves to highlight the damage that continued meat consumption has done, and continues to do, to the planet in terms of climate change and antibiotic use that makes its way through the food chain. Council encourages the residents to adopt one meatless day a week.

Council will put its meatless mouth where its money is with its regular Monday caucus meetings. “For the meetings that start at 5 p.m., any food consumed will be vegetarian,” said Messier.

“We eat three times a day and we can make change in everything that we do has an effect on the environment. We’re part of a population of 7 billion, and if 7 billion people are doing this, it will make an impact.”

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