All Animals Deserve to Be Protected

Manifesto for a regulatory framework governing the living conditions of farm animals in Quebec

Like most Quebecers, we believe that animals intended for food production should be raised in conditions that guarantee their basic welfare. There is a broad scientific consensus that these animals are just as capable of feeling pain and suffering as our dogs, cats and other companion animals. The further research progresses, the more we learn that many animals have significantly more complex cognitive and emotional capacities than we initially suspected—and this applies just as much to dogs and cats as it does to cows, pigs, chickens and other mammals and birds raised for our consumption. It is therefore necessary for the interests and needs of all animals to inform the way we treat them, whether they end up sleeping on our couch or are bound for our plate [...]


It seems inconceivable to us, and at odds with scientific advances on these issues, that in 2023, farm animals have virtually no legal protection. In fact, the Animal Welfare and Safety Act, passed in 2015, still excludes animals used for agricultural purposes from the admittedly basic protections afforded by sections 5 (obligation to provide an animal with food and water, an adequate living environment and care when injured or ill) and 6 (prohibition against causing an animal distress), provided they are treated according to the industry’s “generally accepted rules.” Given that these rules are not defined in the Act, such an exception effectively gives the industry the power to decide for itself which practices are “generally accepted” and therefore legal.

This legal exemption essentially allows the private sector to govern itself when it comes to animal welfare, which we believe is an abdication of public responsibility on the government’s part. It seems counterintuitive to give an industry that handles millions of sentient beings the power to self-regulate.

Despite being known for its progressive values, Quebec society has fallen far behind many other nations around the world that have adopted laws or regulations dictating mandatory standards of care for animals raised for food.

We are convinced that everyone—government, producers and citizens alike—is willing and able to do better with respect to the welfare of animals raised for food in Quebec. We firmly believe that it is time to fill the legal void in this area and that it is necessary for the government to formally oversee, at long last, these animals’ living conditions. We are therefore asking that regulations establishing mandatory minimum standards be implemented, as is the case in many countries around the world. Such a regulatory framework will only benefit productions already mindful of animal welfare and encourage the others to adopt best practices.

By protecting all animals, including those raised for food, we are moving toward a more just and equitable world for all living beings. We recognize we are part of an ecosystem that extends beyond the economic forces that put pressure on all stakeholders, be they producers, consumers or animals. In recognizing the need to ensure a minimum level of welfare for all, we are also treating each actor in the system with dignity and respect.

Read the full manifesto
They gave their support...


acting executive director and director of animal advocacy and legal affairs at the Montreal SPCA
Me Sophie Gaillard
head veterinarian at the Montreal SPCA
Dre Gabrielle Carrière
Professor at HEC Montreal, researcher in environmental and animal ethics
Yves-Marie Abraham
actress and television/radio host
Jessica Barker
law professor and columnist
Me Frédéric Bérard
journalist and author
Josée Blanchette
Stéphanie Boulay
author, actor and columnist
Simon Boulerice
Julien Corriveau
television/radio host and producer
Christiane Charette
feminist activist and politician
Françoise David
Martine Delvaux
Xavier Dolan
Élise Desaulniers
open-water swimmer
Xavier Desharnais
Catherine Girard-Audet
Me Anne-France Goldwater
director of the scientific journal Animal Sentience and professor at UQAM
Étienne Harnad
cardiologist, Montreal Heart Institute
Dr Martin Juneau
veterinarian and specialist in veterinary anesthesiology
Dr Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun
journalist, radio host and writer
Claudia Larochelle
Myriam LeBlanc
Maryse Letarte
independent economist
Ianik Marcil
artiste peintre
Brigitte Matte
comedian, author and actor
Jean-François Mercier
Joëlle Morin
actress and television host
Marina Orsini
author, screenwriter and radio host
Geneviève Pettersen
Paul Piché
Michel Rivard
Law professor
Me Alain Roy
Patrick Senécal
retired professor, Université de Montréal
Michel Seymour
Television host and producer
Julie Snyder
veterinarian and former president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Dre Enid Stiles
Mara Tremblay
Patricia Tulasne
Marie-Ève Trudel

YES, I ask that the living conditions of farm animals be regulated in Quebec.


To sign the manifesto

All fields must be completed for your signature to be processed.


  • The signatory is a Quebec resident.
  • The signatory has read the text of the manifesto and supports it.
  • The signatory accepts that his/her name, first name and place of residence appear on the list of signatories.
  • The information provided by the signatory is truthful.

signConfirm my support

Thank you for your support!

Thank you for speaking out in the name of the millions of animals raised for food in Quebec each year. Together, we can help give them the legal protection they deserve!  


signNumber of signatories


signPlay now


Frequently asked questions



Under what conditions are animals raised for food in Quebec?

The vast majority of animals intended for food production in Quebec are raised in industrial (or “intensive”) farming conditions where housing systems and practices are designed to maximize meat, egg or milk production while keeping costs to a minimum.

This type of farming involves housing animals at high densities in closed buildings. Animals are confined to very small spaces, with very little room to move comfortably, express their natural behaviours or engage in normal interactions with others of their kind. Examples include laying hens kept in cages, sows confined to gestation crates, and dairy cows in tie stalls.

Doesn’t Quebec have animal welfare laws?

In 2015, through the passing of the Act to Improve the Legal Situation of Animals, a new provision was added to the Civil Code of Quebec recognizing that animals are not property but rather sentient beings. A new law focusing exclusively on animal welfare, the Animal Welfare and Safety Act, was also enacted. However, animals used for agricultural purposes are excluded from this law’s main protections.

At the time of the 2015 legislative changes, the then Minister of Agriculture also promised a regulatory framework for farm animal welfare. But 8 years later, regulations for farm animals have yet to be enacted.

Why do we say that farm animals are excluded from the main protections of the law?

SPCA Section 7 of the Animal Welfare and Safety Act excludes all animals used for agricultural purposes from its main protections, namely those included in sections 5 (requirement for an animal’s owner or custodian to provide them with water, food, shelter, care, etc.) and 6 (prohibition on causing distress to an animal), provided they are treated in accordance with the “generally recognized rules” of the industry. However, no such rules are defined in the Act. Thus, so long as a significant portion of the industry adopts a particular practice, it is considered consistent with the “generally recognized rules”. It is therefore the industry itself that determines which practices are exempt from the Act and therefore legal.

This is why it is perfectly legal, and even common practice, to castrate a piglet without anesthesia, whereas if the same procedure were performed on a dog or a cat, it would be punishable by a conviction and even a prison sentence.

The exemption set out in section 7 of the Animal Welfare and Safety Act excluding all animals raised for food from its main protections essentially allows the private sector to regulate itself and thus represents an abdication of public responsibility on the government’s part.

What are the farming Codes of Practice? Aren’t they regulations?

In the agri-food industry, most sectors that use animals are already involved, through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), in the development and review of codes of practice for animal care and handling. These codes are nationally developed guidelines and reflect recommended animal rearing practices. However, they are not legally binding in Quebec, and compliance with these codes is strictly voluntary.

SPCA Furthermore, the industry plays an integral role in developing the codes and even has a majority representation on the code development committees.

Some sectors claim to require their producers to comply with the Codes of Practice. Even if this is the case, the fact that compliance with certain standards is made mandatory by the industry itself rather than by government raises several issues. First, the system put in place to ensure compliance typically relies on the industry auditing itself rather than independent third-party verification. Second, the penalties for noncompliance are also determined by the industry itself. Lastly, because it is a private monitoring system, it is not subject to the same transparency and accountability requirements as those associated with a public oversight system.

Certain provinces, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, have made adherence to NFACC Codes of Practice mandatory.

Do any regulations at all apply to farm animals?

While there are no regulations governing how animals are treated on farms, their transport and slaughter are regulated by certain federal and provincial laws.

The transport of animals raised for food is regulated by the federal Health of Animals Regulations and the provincial Animal Welfare and Safety Act. Their slaughter is governed by the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations at the federal level and the Regulation Respecting Food at the provincial level.

Where does Quebec stand in terms of international best practices?

SPCA In many other parts of the world, particularly in Europe, laws or regulations have been adopted to impose mandatory standards of care for all animals, including animals used for agricultural purposes. In Switzerland, for example, detailed regulations for each species and type of use have been developed.

Several practices that seriously compromise farm animal welfare and that have been banned elsewhere in the world—precisely for this reason—are still widespread in Quebec. For example, confining animals in very small spaces, thereby depriving them of the ability to move around comfortably, to engage in their natural behaviours and to interact normally with others of their kind, is common practice in most Quebec agri-food sectors. This is the case for laying hens kept in battery cages, sows confined to gestation and farrowing crates, and dairy cows in tie stalls.

Another kind of practice, also still common in Quebec but prohibited elsewhere, is systematic mutilation without adequate pain control. Calf and lamb castration, lamb tail docking and the partial debeaking of laying hens are all commonly practiced without any analgesia or anesthesia in Quebec. And as for piglets, they are castrated without anesthesia. Yet the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) considers many of these practices to be painful procedures for which both anesthesia and analgesia are required.

What about “free-run” and other animal welfare claims?

SPCA The Montreal SPCA believes that the agricultural industry should be required to disclose the farming methods used to produce meat, dairy and eggs through mandatory labelling. We in fact submitted comments to this effect to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in 2019 during a consultation held as part of the agency’s Food Labelling Modernization initiative.

Not only is there no mandatory labelling required for animal products, but animal welfare claims on food products are unregulated and therefore unverifiable for consumers. The term “free-run eggs,” for example, which is frequently used on egg packaging, is not regulated, so its use does not reflect specific standards and is not verified. In addition, the term is misleading because “free-run” hens are typically permanently housed indoors and packed in densities nearly as high as in caged production.

Don’t Quebec producers care about animal welfare?

The issue clearly doesn’t stem from the producers as individuals but rather from the system in which they operate. A regulatory framework with prescribed and mandatory standards will only benefit productions that are already concerned about animal welfare and will ensure that all others adopt best practices in a consistent and regulated way.

Do cows, chickens and pigs feel pain in the same way our companion animals do?

SPCA There is broad scientific consensus that these animals are just as capable of feeling pain and suffering as our dogs, cats and other companion animals. The further research progresses, the more science tells us that many animals have significantly more complex cognitive and emotional abilities than we initially suspected—and this applies as much to dogs and cats as it does to cows, pigs, chickens and other mammals and birds raised for food production. It is therefore necessary for the interests and needs of all animals to inform the way we treat them.

Yet animals raised for food are systematically excluded from the law’s main protections despite being sentient beings, with complex cognitive and emotional abilities. As a result, subjecting them to several painful practices which cause suffering remains permitted, when these same practices would be considered criminal if performed on dogs or cats, for example.


signSign the manifesto now