Animal Lawyers, Swiss Vote No

by Mary Haight on March 12, 2010

National animal advocates will not be unleashed on offenders any time soon in Switzerland.antoine-f-goetschel-08 Instead of having Antoine Goetschel, the lone animal lawyer paid by Canton Zurich to represent animals in abuse cases, animal acivists thought all 26 Cantons should offer this public service.  Theoretically  more lawyers would help get more abuse cases prosecuted. But the voters, knowing they lead the pack on animal rights, had heard an earful on a recent abuse case brought to the bench regarding a fish.

It seems a fisherman took too long to reel in the 22lb Pike in question.  Ten minutes of struggling on the other end of a fishhook was thought to be case-worthy and was prosecuted.  The angler didn’t know he would have to answer to the court for his fishing skills, and ate the evidence with friends. Probably with wine. Turned out to be a laughing stock throughout the country, and some think we can blame the case of the battered fish for the outcome at the polls.

If you’d care to take a look, the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance of 1981 (translated) is quite a document, covering animal husbandry, transport and slaughter, companion animals, breeding, research with a focus on avoiding pain and injury as an overarching principle.

In that principle’s spirit, the transfer of ownership can be made only to people who provide proof they have gone through four hours of class before being granted special authorization to keep animals, according to the law.  Another fours hours of training is required after ownership is transferred. 

Like a license to drive, you get permission to keep an animal(s) when you prove you understand what is required to do so humanely and legally. The Animal Protection Ordinance was updated two years ago and is even more stringent now, with very specific size cage requirements for animals deemed appropriate to  keep caged, as just one example.

Leo Hickman of the UK’s Guardian provides a quote from Attorney Goetschel that wraps things up nicely:

“”The 2008 law was good for animal protection,” says Goetschel, who can even represent the best interests of a pet in any custody battles resulting from a (human) divorce. “I think the fight about the level of protection is now probably over in Switzerland. We have the ‘dignity of the animal’ recognised in Swiss law. But there is a struggle between the idealism of the ethics and the realism of the application of the law. Ethics should be there like a lighthouse to show where to go.”

What do you think, does this sound like the difference between theory and practice to you? The fish story may be amusing on one level, but the ethics can’t be ridiculed. As Goetschel himself said, how would we react if it were a puppy on the other end of the fishing rod? Do we only save what’s cute? Do we stick with what might be the outdated idea that only vertebrates can feel pain? Which way are you leaning?

Related article: Christian Science Monitor

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10 comments
veryvizsla
veryvizsla

Premarin is a BIG business in Alberta. It's not made from the placenta of the mare, but from the collection from the mare's urine. Hence (Pre)gnant (mar)e Ur(in)e. The mares are kept in standing stalls and have a rubber collection harness strapped to their backsides. Once the foals are born, they are sent to auction where most of them go to the meat man. My girlfriend bought 4 PMU babies for riding horses and they are doing great. Premarin benefits a lot of postmenopausal women, so it really is a catch 22. I really do like the Swiss ordinance, but Switzerland has a population of 7 million people. To enforce and supervise the Swiss laws in a place like Canada (30 million) or the US (300+ million) would be nearly impossible with out the addition of hundreds, if not thousands of animal welfare agents. Since North American welfare agencies have problems monitoring the family lives of children at risk, this just isn't going to happen. It's nice to think about, though.

veryvizsla
veryvizsla

Okay, my response. It's a FISH! I must say that the Swiss Ordinance is very impressive. Kudos to them!! I must say that article 18 regarding stanchion systems is interesting. They actually demand that their dairy cows are able to roam freely for 90 days out of the year. (that's a little tongue in cheek ya'll) Betcha' didn't know that dairy cattle spend most of their lives in a standing stall. Since the Swiss make most of their living with dairy products I suppose that giving the cattle a little roaming time is okay. And I'm not anti-dairy products, just wanted to let everyone know how it goes. I know people in the dairy industry here in Canada & as long as the heifer is producing milk, she's in the stall.

Rod@GoPetFriendly
Rod@GoPetFriendly

BTW - does the license apply to pets? Do you need a license to obtain a pet in Switzerland? I think I like that idea!

Rod@GoPetFriendly
Rod@GoPetFriendly

I think the thing with the fish is over the top. Just the way I feel. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. To me that first step is pets. Then animals raised for food (I'm about 90% vegetarian). Then fish. It's not that I don't think all life is precious - I'm just all for protecting the most endangered first (pets) with the limited resources we have.

michele
michele

The comment about the puppy at the end of the fishing rod brings me back to a discussion I had with an animal representative at American Humane. They work on movie sets, and they coined the phrase "No animal was harmed in the making of this picture..." They even protect roaches. Yes, I'm not making this up. They believe that all life is of value, and that if you discriminate against one, then you can discriminate against others.

Edie
Edie

Until the end of this post, where I saw the question posed as one of invertebrates feeling pain, I had no doubt that this was an example of animal rights overkill, the type of tactics PETA uses that make it easy for people to dismiss important animal issues. I still think that the humane killing of food animals is a separate issue than that of the way we treat domestic pets and needs to be kept separate lest you lose too many supporters of such important laws as those Switzerland enacted (wow, I'm impressed). Of course I think food animals should be treated humanely too; I just don't think the fish question needed to be addressed in this context.

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