Capilano University’s V. Victoria Shroff Receives Oxford Fellowship

Learn about her work on animal rights and cosmetic surgeries

Yasmine Elsayed (she/her) // Contributor

Natasha Lee // Illustrator

Capilano University instructor V. Victoria Shroff is one of Canada’s first animal law practitioners and has been shortlisted for Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers in Canada every year from 2018 to 2023. She has been practicing for 23 years and her work is dedicated to animals and their well–being. 

Recently, Shroff was awarded a fellowship from Oxford in the United Kingdom. She will be an Associate Fellow to the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. 

In 2023, she also presented a TedxCapilanoU talk, where she highlighted the commonalities between animal law and environmental law. She also described how climate change disrupts animals and their habitat, and how we, as humans, need to be aware of our impact. 

When asked why she didn’t become an environmental lawyer—as it covers both animal law and climate change—she explained that both law fields should be linked but her focus was on the animals for now.

“People would talk about decimating a forest, for example, but there wouldn’t be a lot of talk about what would happen to the millions of animals who would live in and around those trees,” Shroff said. “I think that there’s a real important aspect to speaking up for animals, but also making and drawing the connections with environmental law. It’s a question of also being able to make those bonds strengthen between the two areas of law.” 

During the TEDx Talk, Shroff also explained that humans hold themselves at the top of the pyramid, considering anything else to be lesser.

“Throughout the years [women and People of Colour] had to come before the law and beg for rights,” she said in the talk, adding how now, it is the animals’ turn to be heard.

Shroff received criticism based on this conclusion. She explained that having been born in Africa, she viewed animals as equals to herself, which is why she drew this comparison.

She further explained, “It took begging at a concerted effort, persistence, and tenacity, to be able to see that there are these overlapping vulnerabilities between different groups, but they persisted. And they have succeeded in gaining human rights. And now, we need to look at rights for animals.”

While PETA is known for their controversial campaigns and advertisements, Shroff thinks PETA is doing what it can to stand up for animals. However, as a lawyer, she believes their approach must be revised. 

“I don’t agree with breaking the law to make a point. As a lawyer, I absolutely do not agree with that,” she said. “I think that we can expose individuals and organizations through legal channels, and we can use our advocacy wisely but I do not believe in breaking the law to do that.”

Recently, many veterinarians have been coming together to ban specific domestic animal disfigurements. In 2015, cosmetic ear cropping was banned by B.C. veterinarians. In 2019, Global News reported that Alberta veterinarians were voting to ban declawing, ear cropping, and tail docking surgeries, explaining that they are inhumane. Later in the year, in New Brunswick, as reported by CBC, veterinarians voted to ban cat declawing. 

Shroff has also been working to ban these cosmetic surgeries for almost six years. “It’s basically just cruelty wrapped up in what’s called breed standards,” she said, explaining how she’s worked alongside animal advocacy groups to further the cases. In 2018, she founded a group called the Canadian Animal Law Study Group, which advocates for the rights of animals. “We liaise with other animal groups, and one of our platforms has been about banning cosmetic surgeries,” she shared.

Shroff feels that her Oxford fellowship is another significant step forward to creating a better future for animals. “It has to feed my goal of being there for animals and being able to stand up and be the voice, in court and classrooms, and in some cases, in legislatures to be able to say, animals need to be heard,” she said.

She plans to continue centering her work around access to justice for animals, in classrooms, courtrooms and in writing. She does dozens of media interviews every year, including topics such as coyote culls in Stanley Park. “A crown prosecutor animal law colleague and I have put together a proposal for Canada’s first animal law section through the Canadian Bar Association,” she added.

In addition to working on a variety of documentaries, cases and pro bono work, Shroff is participating in an upcoming online conference on November 9 called “Violence Link for Humane Canada,” where she will be a part of the panel discussing the link between violence against humans and animals. Registration will be open later this summer. 

Shroff will be teaching animal law at UBC this fall, but returning to CapU in September 2024.

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