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Swiss Referendum Draws Line for Animal Rights

March 8, 2010

If you were a non-human animal, Switzerland is where you would want to live. A law that went into effect in September 2008 offers significant protections for “social species,” including not only dogs and cats, but also house birds, guinea pigs, and goldfish. Fisherman must take a class to learn how to properly handle their catch and goldfish must be “knocked out and then killed” before being flushed.

But while Swiss animals have more rights than many people worldwide, they do not have the right to a lawyer. In a referendum Sunday, 70.5% of those voting said “No” to appointing 25 lawyers to prosecute people on behalf of abused and neglected animals.   The cost of providing legal care seems to have been the main point of contention.


Even still, animal protection receives significant attention throughout Europe. Up until the collapse of the government in February, the Party for the Animals held two seats in the Dutch Parliament. In the UK, a man lost his driver’s license  for walking his dog from inside his car. The EU has a ban on animal testing for cosmetics and the Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers addresses animal welfare and health, putting “…animal welfare on equal footing with other key principles mentioned in the same title i.e. promote gender equality, guarantee social protection, protect human health, combat discrimination, promote sustainable development, ensure consumer protection, protect personal data.”

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