News / Edmonton

Animal rights advocates try to reignite fight over moving Lucy the elephant

Activists were in Edmonton Provincial Court Thursday to appeal ruling that struck down case over provincial zoo permit.

Tove Reece, with local Edmonton advocacy group Voice for Animals, poses for a photo outside of the Edmonton Provincial Court on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

SYSTEM / Metro Web Upload

Tove Reece, with local Edmonton advocacy group Voice for Animals, poses for a photo outside of the Edmonton Provincial Court on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Animal rights activists were back in court Thursday to try and appeal an eight-year-old decision about Lucy the elephant.

Back in 2010, a group of organizations—including Zoocheck Canada Inc. Voice for Animals advocacy group, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Inc., or PETA—tried to argue that the City of Edmonton was breaking the law by keeping Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

The group had intended to argue the zoo is in violation of Alberta Zoo Standards in part because Lucy, a 42-year-old Asian elephant, is being housed alone.

In his 2010 decision, Justice John Rooke ruled that their application was an abuse of process, arguing that they should have handled their grievance by making a formal complaint through the Edmonton Humane Society.

The group of animal rights activists disagreed.

On Thursday, Stephen Panunto, the lawyer representing Zoocheck and Voice for Animals on the appeal, said his clients believe there is “overwhelming evidence” the zoo is breaking the law.

The groups believe the zoo should not have been issued a permit by the provincial government and that their complaints to the humane society were “ignored.”

“Lucy can’t bring this claim on her behalf,” said Panunto.

While standards do require zoos to house elephants in groups, Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) — a charitable organization responsible for inspecting and accrediting zoos in Canada — has granted the Edmonton Valley Zoo a variance based on Lucy’s special health needs.

The Edmonton Humane Society also investigated Lucy’s conditions and in 2011 found she was receiving adequate care.

Representing the provincial government, Stephanie Bowes argued the appeal was an attempt to circumvent Rooke’s 2010 decision and seek the same remedy, which is ultimately to remove Lucy from the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Barry Alloway, also representing the Government of Alberta, said the appeal was not about arguing process but furthering the interests of advocates who want to decide where Lucy should live.

Outside of the courtroom, Tove Reece with Voice for Animals said she is unquestionably motivated by Lucy’s wellbeing.

“An animal that is as aware and as intelligent and as in need of being in a social situation as Lucy is should not be where she is,” said Reece.

However, she says their legal argument is about ensuring there is a process available to hold the government accountable.

“People should have the right to make sure that the government itself is not above the law, they have to follow the law as well,” Reece said.

Justice Brian O’Ferrall, Justice Thomas Wakeling and Justice Jo’Anne Strekaff reserved their decision on the appeal and are expected to render a decision within a month.

More on