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Campaign for animal advocates gathers pace

Animal rights should be taken seriously by the courts, say campaigners. SAP

The leading Swiss animal-welfare group has formally launched its proposal for legal representation for animals.

This content was published on March 30, 2006 - 12:26

Swiss Animal Protection (SAP) has 18 months to collect the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a nationwide ballot on the issue.

Under current law animal rights groups are not granted a fair representation in legal cases, said SAP president Heinz Lienhard at a news conference in the capital Bern on Thursday.

He said these groups had no right to consult relevant documents and could not appeal against initial court ruling.

Lienhard also said judges had been too lenient with animal abusers in the past.

Courts have on several occasions handed down minor fines of SFr500 ($383) for what campaigners perceive as serious cases of abuse. They said the judges lacked the courage to pass stronger sentences and were trivialising the crimes.

SAP added there was enough evidence that introducing animal advocates on a federal level would not lead to huge increase in court cases.

Legal provisions

Some animal protection lawyers currently operate at the cantonal level but the new proposal wants to anchor the position of an animal protection lawyer in the federal constitution.

The group withdrew a previous people's initiative calling for more far-reaching measures after parliament approved new animal rights last December.

The amendments include measures to protect the dignity and well-being of animals. People who abandon animals, fail to respect their dignity or abuse them will face protection.

The new regulation outlaws the castration of piglets without anaesthetic from 2009 – unless a more humane alternative is put forward in the meantime. It also limits the duration of animal transportation and bans the import of cat and dog skins.

Ritual slaughtering remains illegal, but the import of halal and kosher meat will still be allowed to respond to the need of the Muslim and Jewish communities in Switzerland.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

There are an estimated 17 million animals, including more than seven million pets, in Switzerland.
1.3 million cats and 400,000 dogs live in Swiss households.
About 475,000 animals are used annually for scientific purposes.

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In brief

Parliament voted in December to amend the animal protection regulations, including sanctions against those who mistreat, abandon or fail to respect the dignity of animals.

The leading animal-welfare group SAP has launched a new initiative to seek legal representation for animals.

At the end of last year it withdrew a more far-reaching proposal.

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