The perceptions of Canadians on animal welfare issues have gone through noticeable changes over the past two decades.
In Vancouver, we experienced months – if not years – of discussions related to keeping cetaceans in captivity. Across Canada, more than 25 municipal governments forbid circuses from using "performing animals."
Even our relationship with beef has shifted moderately. Earlier this summer, Research Co. found that 60% of Canadians would eat a plant-based hamburger patty, with younger adults being more likely to indulge than their older counterparts.
Earlier this month, we looked at the way Canadians feel about specific issues related to human interaction with animals, including food, fashion and entertainment.
Eating animals is seen unfavourably by 19% of Canadians, with three in four (75%) having no qualms about it. As expected, there are some subtle generational differences. Fewer than one in five Canadians aged 55 and over (16%) and aged 35 to 54 (17%) deride eating animals, compared to 25% of those aged 18 to 34.
At the other extreme of the public-approval scale is trophy hunting, which is seen favourably by only 10% of Canadians – including 15% of men, 16% of residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 14% of Conservative Party voters in the 2019 federal election. An overwhelming majority of Canadians (85%) voices opposition to trophy hunting, including 73% who are "strongly" against it.
Hunting animals for meat, however, is viewed differently, with practically two-thirds (65%) saying they favour this practice and about three in 10 (29%) saying they oppose it.
Atlantic Canada and Alberta (each at 71%) boast the highest level of support for hunting animals for meat, and they are joined by most residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan (69%), British Columbia (65%), Ontario (63%) and Quebec (59%).
On the fashion angle, killing animals for their fur is regarded negatively by three in four Canadians (75%). If you are already thinking about Christmas gifts, be sure to know that 83% of women, 81% of Ontarians and 79% of British Columbians will not be happy finding anything fur-related under the tree.
Keeping animals in zoos and aquariums is a significantly more contentious issue. While almost two in five Canadians (39%) favour this custom, a majority (52%) are opposed. The level of animosity towards zoos and aquariums is highest among Ontarians (57%), women (56%), Canadians aged 18 to 34 (also 56%) and Liberal Party voters in the 2019 federal election (54%).
There is another type of spectacle involving animals that has also generated controversy. Established rodeos, such as the Calgary Stampede, have consistently seen protests, with a particular emphasis on bringing an end to chuckwagon races, in which six horses died during this year's competition.
Just under three in five Canadians (59%) are opposed to using animals in rodeos, while one-third (34%) are in favour. Majorities across all three age groups are against this practice, as are more than three in five residents of Atlantic Canada (67%), Quebec (65%) and British Columbia (62%).
In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, more residents are supportive of using animals in rodeos (50%) than those who are against (43%). In Alberta, the public is evenly split: 49% are in favour of rodeos with animals and 49% are opposed.
The issue will undoubtedly be re-debated this weekend, as the Canadian Football League (CFL) is organizing a rodeo as part of the Grey Cup festivities in Calgary. When Canadians are asked about the CFL's decision, more than a third (35%) agree with having the rodeo as part of the league's marquee weekend, but almost half (46%) disagree.
Once again, Alberta is divided on tying the CFL to rodeo (40% agree, 43% disagree), but British Columbia has the largest proportion of residents who are not thrilled with the league's choice (53%).
The research shows that the public approval of hunting animals for sport is tiny. Many despise the practice of killing animals for their fur, but fewer have a problem with hunting for food.
The past two weeks have, perhaps accidentally, provided an opportunity for Canadians to take a look at what constitutes a wholesome relationship with long-standing sports customs. At this time, the CFL is seriously pondering expansion to Atlantic Canada, but has gone through a difficult time packing some stadiums, reaching younger demographics and getting people to tune in to games on cable and streaming services
Within this context, it is important to note that most Canadians are opposed to using animals in rodeos and almost half are not enthused about these spectacles establishing a relationship with the CFL.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from November 10–13, 2019, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.