Swiss Voters to Decide if Animals Need Lawyers
The Swiss Animal Protection (STS) league gathered 100,000 signatures to have a referendum be held, hoping that by having lawyers appointed to represent animals will lead to more serious concern for animal rights and animal abuse.
An attorney based in Zurich, Antoine Goetschel, appointed as animal welfare attorney in 2007, is behind this latest referendum.
The animal welfare attorney position was first created in Zurich in 1992.
Pet breeders, hunters and farmers oppose the referendun thinking it will result in more laws and restrictions, launching their own campaign, No to the Useless Animal Lawyers.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Switzerland already has some of the most far-reaching animal-welfare laws in the world. Since 2008, it has been illegal to keep animals that usually live in groups -- such as goldfish, canaries or guinea pigs -- alone, dog owners have to take a training course and, beginning in 2013, horses will not be able to be tied up in their stalls. The constitution even protects the "dignity" of plant life, and a Swiss ethics panel has said that the "decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason" is a bad thing. So why do you need more laws -- or lawyers -- in this area?
Goetschel: No, I don't want to see more lawyers. And we're not talking about creating new laws, either. From my point of view, I would be happy with one or two new terms being added to the existing legislation so as to ensure that existing animal-welfare laws are adhered to. Since there is a lack of interest in them in many places in Switzerland and Germany, they are not taken seriously. The changes would acknowledge the importance of human-animal relationships and ensure that the existing law in regard to them is properly applied. Since there has been an animal-welfare attorney here in Zurich for the past 18 years, everyone involved -- the police, local veterinarians and animal-welfare organizations -- takes these things more seriously. I consider myself a small cog in a big machine. But, without that small cog, there is a gap between the administrative part of animal-welfare organizations and (law-enforcement organizations). So the goal is to make sure that the state starts doing animal-welfare work properly and to make animal-welfare cases a normal thing.
Mr. Goetschel has had some interesting clients.
In this function, Goetschel acts much like a public prosecutor, representing the state's interests in animal-welfare cases. Over the last three years, he has worked on wide array of cases, ranging from the one about the woman with 149 cats to the bizarre incident of the fish that a fisherman kept dangling on the line for too long.
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