Lion in small, barren enclosure

Canada gets a failing grade in global test of animal welfare leadership


The second edition of our Animal Protection Index (API), which ranks countries on their laws protecting animals, exposes the drastic need for global change

The index ranks countries from A (the highest score) to G (the lowest score) according to their animal welfare policies and legislation. Canada received a D grade, alongside other countries including, Tanzania, Peru and the United States.

Shockingly, not one country has obtained an ‘A’ grade. Sweden, the United Kingdom and Austria received the highest score with a B. However, there is room for improvement in these countries too.

Some countries such as Morocco, Iran, Algeria, and Belarus were found to still be missing the basic legal framework needed to protect animals, and others like Canada do not formally recognize animal sentience in their existing legislation.

See and compare how countries performed in the API.

Read the full Canada API report.

Animal Protection Index infographic map

Why did Canada get a D rating?

Canada received the lowest marks for not having adequate legislation protecting wildlife in captivity, working animals, animals used in research and pets. 

An estimated 1.4 million wild animals are kept as exotic pets in Canada and their ownership and trade is governed by a patchwork of inadequate federal, provincial and local laws. Canada is strongly encouraged to follow the lead of countries like the Netherlands and Belgium which take a precautionary approach to mitigating animal welfare, environmental and public health and safety risks in their national laws restricting which animals can be kept as pets.

Canada also ranks poorly for having no federal legislation to protect the welfare of animals on farms. Farm animals are still often raised in intensive systems, kept in barren, cramped conditions with little room to move and sometimes subjected to painful procedures such as having their teeth clipped, without pain relief.

32 day old broiler chickens in an industrial shed

An industrial chicken shed can hold tens of thousands of birds. At the end of their short lives, the birds are so densely packed that each animal can have less floor space than an A4 piece of paper.

While some policy improvements have been made for farm animals to phase out battery cages for egg-laying hens, pregnancy crates for mother pigs and the tethering of dairy calves, these requirements are not legally mandated. Farm animal care in Canada is guided by the National Farm Animal Council of Canada's (NFACC) Codes of Practice, meaning the agricultural industry is entrusted to police itself.

The report does acknowledge improvements made to federal regulations governing farm animal transport with more times for feed, water and rest, however the new times have not decreased much from the originals, and the industry has also forced a two-year delay to meet those requirements. This means animals can still be transported for very long periods of time without feed, water or rest and continue to travel in freezing temperatures or extreme heat with no climate control in the vehicles.

Canada was also docked marks for not having a central authority responsible for developing an animal welfare policy and for not tracking or monitoring progress on animal welfare.

Elephant riding at African Lion Safari

African Lion Safari in Ontario offers elephant rides, despite research showing how much elephants suffer when used for rides and other tourist entertainment.

Coronavirus and other concerns

Severe animal welfare concerns from intensive farming, wildlife markets and associated trade are all proven threats of disease outbreak, such as the most recent global epidemic, coronavirus.

The API found that China, USA, Vietnam, Egypt, Azerbaijan and Belarus need to do more to protect animals and people from the threat of zoonotic diseases.

This global threat will continue for as long as there is no effective legislation and preventative measures to control the emerging threat to animal and people’s health.


Captive reptiles are well-documented as carriers of pathogens, such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses, that can be transferred to humans. The conditions at markets at which wild animals are sold can be incubators for the transmission of disease and the evolution of more virulent pathogens.

Beyond public health, these systems which put us all at risk are causing immense suffering and cruelty to billions of animals every year.

We need to build a better world for animals and people, but this won’t be possible until we stop treating animals as commodities.

Holding countries to account

World Animal Protection is calling on all governments to immediately improve their animal welfare standards, not only for the benefit of animals, but also to reduce the risk to public health.

Melissa Matlow, Campaign Director for World Animal Protection Canada says: “We would like to see Canada pass animal welfare legislation that finally recognizes animals are sentient beings that can suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. The Federal government should play a more active role, working with provinces and territories to ensure consistent protection for all animals across the country.”

According to an August 2019 nationally representative poll, 73% of Canadians believe it is important that the government of Canada passes stronger legislation to protect animals and ensure they do not experience pain and suffering.

Since the first API report came out in 2014, Canada did make some improvements including banning animal fighting, bestiality, shark finning and the keeping, breeding and capture of cetaceans for public entertainment.

beluga whale at Marineland

In 2019, Canada passed Bill S-203 which the keeping, breeding and trading in cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) for entertainment purposes.

While these are all positive steps forward, these initiatives did not improve the country’s overall ranking. Much more needs to be done for animals. Canada should be a country leading on animal welfare, not one lagging behind.

Help us create a better world for animals

The API highlights the many ways that governments are failing to protect animals. Help us raise awareness about these failures by sharing the API with your friends, family and your Federal Member of Parliament (click here to use the government's database to find your MPs contact info). Together, we can influence decision makers to put animals on the global agenda.

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