Last month, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA -- Canadian equivalent of the IRS) published a document setting out guidelines on non-profit animal organizations and charitable registration.
Essentially, it said: "If you actively support laws or activities which promote the life and happiness of animals over human beings, you aren't a charity."
Now, before going any further, let's try and clarify some of the confusion that has been swirling about these guidelines.
- It does not prevent any animal organization from speaking its conscience (so long as it doesn't break any of the country's hate speech laws), and it doesn't actually change the law; it just explains the current law.
- It doesn't take away anybody's non-profit status -- it merely clarifies the fact that donations to animal organizations that promote actions which would benefit animals at the expense of humans cannot be viewed as "charitable" (i.e. not tax-deductible).
- It is not without precedent. Greenpeace famously had its charitable status revoked in 1999, and the CRA regularly revokes the charitable status of non-profits. This clear, (and in our view) common-sense approach is not unusual for them.
Read it for yourself. It's long, but its use of legalese is kept to a minimum. If you only have the time or patience for an excerpt, read this:
Taking harm to humans into consideration
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.
30. For example, the courts have decided that seeking to abolish vivisection is not charitable. This is in part because, as the courts have put it, despite the suffering inflicted on animals, the "immense and incalculable benefits which have resulted from vivisection, [Footnote 13] and the "positive and calamitous detriment of appalling magnitude" that would result from its abolition, outweigh any possible promotion of the moral and ethical development of the community. [Footnote 14]
31. In short, when weighing benefits to animals against benefits to humans, "the life and happiness of human beings must be preferred to that of animals".[Footnote 15]
32. A charity must also comply with Canadian laws and public policy. [Footnote 16] A charity could not, for example, commit the offence of breaking and entering into a person or company's property in order to remove animals it believes are in distress, or vandalize that property in an effort to change the person or company's behaviour. Instead, the charity could notify any appropriate authorities, or, if its officers have police powers, obtain a warrant. As well, a charity that proposes to keep animals may only do so in full compliance with municipal bylaws.
This language, and its keen, fearless awareness of the fact that some animal activities truly do seek to harm humans and human interests is refreshing. If only we had such clear guidelines here in the United States.
Here, donations to groups like PeTA, HSUS, and Sea Shepherd are tax deductible.
That's right -- PeTA, an organizations that gives thousands of dollars to domestic terrorists, HSUS, a group that vigorously pushes laws that would criminalize veterinarian-approved farming practices and limit consumer choice, and Sea Shepherd, which is made up of people whose very existence revolves around aggressive, direct-action campaigns.
These groups are, of course, entitled to their beliefs and advocacy, but it is obscene seeing our tax dollars being applied to political activism. At least Canada understands this, and is acting accordingly. Now if only we could get our own heads on straight on this matter...