CRA is seeking public comments on their charitable guidelines for animal welfare groups
Category : Uncategorized
The Canada Revenue Agency (the agency that oversees charitable registration in Canada) is seeking public comments on their new guidelines for groups involved in animal welfare work.
I may not have written about this before on this blog, but I have on my own personal blog (and here), and it seems to me that the CRA regulations for what work is considered “charitable” is designed to protect the status quo and restrict work that might actually create social change.
If you are an animal advocate, you will likely be troubled by a great deal of this document. Here are a couple of passages that struck me:
2. Under common law, an activity or purpose is only charitable when it provides a benefit to humans. For some purposes and activities, including those relieving the suffering of animals, the courts have decided that the benefit is the promotion of the moral or ethical development of the community. As far back as the 19th century, the courts have stated that promoting the welfare of animals “has for its object, not merely the protection of the animals themselves, but the advancement of morals and education among [people].”
You may not realize this, but our charity laws date back to the 1800s. And the way precedence is determined, changes in social norms are not taken into account.
22. To be registered as a charity, an applicant must also show that it operates for thepublic benefit. Showing that it operates for the public benefit is especially important for an applicant whose purposes fall under the fourth head of charity.
23. Promoting the welfare of animals is only charitable when it results in a benefit to humans. Purposes that benefit animals, but not humans, are not charitable.
Here’s the bit that really got me:
28. Some activities may promote the welfare of animals but also cause, or have the potential to cause, harm to humans. The harm could take many forms, including physical or economic harm, or direct or indirect harm.
29. Any benefit or potential benefit to the welfare of animals must be balanced against any harm or potential harm to humans when deciding whether an organization or activity that promotes the welfare of animals is charitable. The public benefit resulting from promoting the welfare of animals must clearly outweigh any harm or potential harm to humans.
Any activity which may indirectly cause “economic harm” to humans is by definition not charitable. This would likely include efforts to end any activities which are legal but harm animals, such as hunting, trapping, animal testing, factory farming, and so on. Pretty much anything that any animal rights activist would want to work towards.
How then is it possible for a Canadian charity to advocate for veganism – a real solution that has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of animal suffering? Canada’s charity laws effectively prohibit this sort of work.
Basically, it seems that in order to work on fundamental change to the way animals are perceived and treated (meaning: working at the root of the problem) organizations cannot be registered charities. And, if an organization is already a charity, their hands are basically tied.
There are a lot more troubling passages in this document, mostly troubling because of how they highlight the position of animals in our society. For example, “the courts have recognized that promoting agriculture, including livestock breeding, is charitable.” So it is charitable to support the system that creates suffering for animals while it is not charitable to work to end a system which exploits animals and causes them to suffer.
Should animal charities in Canada give up their charitable registration to do real and meaningful work to end animal suffering? Are they playing the government’s game of supporting animal agriculture and the status quo by buying in to the charitable system? What do you think?
Please take a minute to send your comments to Canada Revenue. Public opinion does matter.