Q&A with Camille Labchuk, Animal Rights Lawyer

Camille is the executive director of Animal Justice, Canada’s only animal law organization, and co-host of the Paw & Order podcast. We are honoured to share with you this special Q&A with Camille.

You’re a true hero for the animals! What started your animal rights journey?

My family included cats, hamsters, rabbits, and ducks while I was growing up, so I’ve always understood that animals are individuals, and feel joy, sorrow, pleasure, and pain just like humans do. After university, I worked in federal politics and noticed how badly animals’ voices were missing from the political and legal conversation in Canada, so I became inspired to go to law school and do what I could to make sure they were no longer ignored.

How can people support the animal rights movement in their everyday lives?

There are so many simple and manageable ways to incorporate animal advocacy into your life—no matter what communities you belong to, or what you do for a living! Preparing and sharing plant-based meals with others is incredibly important, and shows people that a more compassionate food system is within our reach. I also encourage folks to support animal protection organizations, sanctuaries, and rescues; talk with politicians about your concerns before, during, and after elections; and speak up when you see injustices done to animals.

Can you share with us your proudest moment at Animal Justice?

In 2019, Parliament passed groundbreaking legislation to outlaw whale and dolphin captivity and breeding, and ban the cruel trade in shark fin products. This was the first time that Canada had passed any significant new national animal protection laws in over 100 years, and I was proud that Animal Justice played a role in these victories. We hope these new laws will pave the path for even more progress.

Amidst the harsh realities of factory farming, how do you stay so positive and continue fighting for the animals? 

It’s heartbreaking to think about the millions of animals kept in horrifying conditions behind closed doors in this country, but I also recognize and appreciate the incredible progress being made every year to sensitize people to this harsh truth. Plant-based options have never been more plentiful, and polls show that a growing number of people are eating more plant-based foods. 

We’ve all seen the terrible videos online and wonder, “is that really happening here in Canada?” Are the animal welfare laws here really that bad?

Unfortunately, Canada has some of the worst animal protection laws in the western world. Unlike other similar countries, we have no national legislation protecting animals. Feeling morally superior to the United States is a national pass time, but I think a lot of people are shocked to learn that our southern neighbours are generally doing much better than we are when it comes to animal protection laws.

Canadians seem to be making a shift towards eating more plant based, what do you think leads the change?

People are waking up to the reality that farming animals for food is both incredibly cruel, and also environmentally damaging. Meat, dairy, and egg production creates at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and after a summer with devastating heatwaves and wildfires, the effects are being driven home like never before. The availability of delicious, plant-based options also helps. When I first went vegan in 2007, it was an entirely different world. Vegan options were few and far between at restaurants, and we didn’t have a single acceptable plant-based cheese option! Now, I can’t even keep up with all of the new product releases and new plant-based restaurants that seem to open weekly. When plant-based food is delicious, comparably-priced, and widely available, people are definitely happy to make a shift.

You’ve certainly inspired a lot of people to adopt and maintain a cruelty free lifestyle. What made you go vegan, and when was that?

I had been vegetarian since age 12 after seeing footage of suffering animals on TV.  I read John Robbins’ book, Diet For A New America, in university, and after I learned about the horrible suffering that cows and chickens endure for eggs and milk, I knew I had to eliminate those products from my life. It took me another few years to make the transition permanent, which I now realize was because I didn’t know any other vegans. I eventually began connecting with other Ottawa-area vegans, found strength in community, and made the switch for good.

Do you have any advice for people trying to make the switch to a plant based diet?

There’s no right way to go vegan. Some people do it overnight, and others gradually eliminate categories of animal products. Do what works for you. Also, it can be isolating to be the only plant-based person in your circle. If you don’t already have friends who share your interest in plant-based eating, make some! Go to veg fests, get involved in community groups, and start getting to know the fantastic people in the veg community. It’s much easier to make a long-term change when you’ve got a supportive social circle.

To learn more about Animal Justice and the animal protection laws in Canada, visit animaljustice.ca.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published