Swiss reject lawyers for animals
Published 08/03/2010 | 10:16
The result was emphatic: Swiss voters don't think abused animals need to have their own lawyers.
It's a proposal that would never even come near a referendum in other countries, but the measure's defeat on Sunday disappointed animal rights advocates, who say Switzerland's elaborate animal welfare laws aren't being enforced.
Opponents of the proposal, including key farmers' groups and the government, had argued that existing laws are sufficient and appointing special lawyers to act on behalf of animals would be unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers.
"The Swiss people have clearly said our animal protection laws are so good we don't need animal lawyers," Jakob Buechler, a lawmaker for the centrist Christian People's Party, told Swiss television SF1.
Official results showed that 70.5% of voters cast their ballot against the proposal to extend nationwide a system that has been in place in Zurich since 1992. Some 29.5% of voters backed the proposal, with turnout at just over 45%.
According to the country's only animal lawyer, Antoine F Goetschel, public prosecutors are often unsure about animal rights and shy away from pursuing cases even if there is clear evidence of abuse. He said the cost of Sunday's measure would have been less than 1 Swiss franc (£0.65) per person a year.
Tiana Angelina Moser, a lawmaker for the Green Liberal Party, said animal rights advocates would look for other ways to make sure laws against animal abuse are properly applied and those who hurt animals receive appropriate punishment.
"It's definitely disappointing, I thought it would have been a closer vote," said Moser. "I don't think it's a 'no' to animal protection, but a 'no' for this particular measure."
Switzerland tightened its laws two years ago and now has among the strictest rules anywhere when it comes to caring for pets and farm animals.
The country's 160-page animal protection law states exactly how much space owners must give Mongolian gerbils (233 square inches) and what water temperature is required for African clawed frogs (18-22 degrees Celsius; 64-72 degrees Fahrenheit).