University de Montreal (UdeM) law students campaigning for animal welfare have collected more than 4,000 signatures on a petition in less than three months and caused a major retail chain to change course.
Founded in 2012, the UdeM’s Fonds étudiant pour la défense juridique des animaux (FEJDA) is campaigning to protect animals and to have their rights recognized in society through conferences and activities. Composed of volunteers who are law students at the Université de Montréal, FEDJA is financed by the Animal Justice organization.
Initially, FEDJA was a body designed to raise awareness in the university community, but it expanded beyond the campus earlier this year when its members launched their first ever campaign to fight trapping, whether recreational or commercial.
One of the faculty’s professors, Frédéric Bérard, came close to losing his dog after it got its nose stuck in a trap. It was the spark that ignited the initiative, FEDJA president Ariane Goupil said in an interview.
Frederic Berard and his dog Che. Che’s snout was trapped in a leg-hold trap prompting the law professor to start a campaign to ban the sale and use of traps.
According to figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association, 67 per cent of trapped animals were not the intended prey of the person who set the trap.
This phenomenon also occurs in Quebec, and FEDJA documents it, particularly through media reports of domestic animals that end up in a very bad situation.
Noting that the sale of traps is not regulated, the group has begun a boycott of retailers who sell them over the counter.
A petition calling on these big-box stores to stop selling traps, pending legislation that would prohibit their use in the province, also collected more than 4,000 signatures.
As a result, the SAIL chain stopped selling traps and snares from its inventory on February 28.
Another retailer chose instead to block FEDJA’s communications, Goupil said, “indicating that they were disturbed.”
“We targeted large retailers on the basis that they sell so many other things that removing the traps wouldn’t have a big impact on their business,” the committee chair said.
However, the committee is not ruling out the idea of extending its boycott movement to smaller hunting and fishing shops or taking its petition to the national assembly.
“We are going step by step, with small victories, to get our message across that trapping is an archaic and outdated practice that no longer has a reason to exist in Quebec,” said Goupil.
Around the world, 88 countries have already banned leg traps.
“Whether it is related to agriculture, captivity in zoos, the protection of wildlife species, animal cruelty, access to housing or the promotion of vegetarianism and veganism, FEDJA is interested in all aspects of animal welfare,” said Goupil.
The organization recently took a stand in support of the Sanctuaire pour animaux de ferme de l’Estrie (SAFE), which was sued by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) for refusing to label the ears of its animals destined for a peaceful retirement.
“Labeling is a way of ensuring the traceability of the meat. These animals are not destined to be slaughtered and end up on a plate,” said Goupil.
Rather than piercing their ears, a procedure deemed “invasive,” FEDJA is campaigning for the micro-picking of farm animals that are not destined for the food consumption cycle.
The group will also closely follow the progress of the Canadian bill to ban cosmetic testing on animals.
FORT THE LOVE OF ANIMALS
Elsewhere in the province, other student groups are taking an anti-speciesist position, that is, that humans are on an equal footing with all other animal species and should not seek to dominate them.
The University of Sherbrooke has an Animal Law Committee. Currently made up of six law students, its activities focus on raising awareness and educating the public about animal welfare.
Conferences broadcast on Facebook, where news links and petitions are also shared, as well as pet therapy workshops, have already been offered to the general public.
Its volunteers also give their time to various shelters and organizations that work with animals, mostly out of love.
“We came to the conclusion that they can’t defend themselves, so it’s kind of our job to do that and one of the ways to do that is to get involved in the promotion of animal law,” explains the president of the animal law committee at the University of Sherbrooke, Sofiane Poirier.
The change in the status of animals from movable property to living beings “endowed with sentience,” under a law adopted in 2015, has greatly advanced the cause, says the law student, but the whole subject is still unknown to much of the population.
UdeM students have joined the Society for Anti-Speciesism, Veganism and Ecology (SAVE). Its objective is also to promote the animal cause within the university community by sharing information, explained by one of its administrators, Tommy Varin-Marion.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 7, 2023.