Global Journal of Animal Law
For more information about the Journal, see http://gjal.abo.fi/
Volume 1 (2013-01)
Birgitta Wahlberg: Foreword
Switzerland is often considered to be the leader in animal welfare. In fact, there is numerous legislation in place that regards animals and their welfare. While some aspects of animal welfare have already been governed on a federal level for 120 years, Switzerland is the first country that implemented the animal’s dignity as a protection deserving value into the Swiss constitution. Since 1992 the dignity of the creature means to protect animals for example from humiliation (even if the animal does not have the ability to be aware of it) or immoderate instrumentalization.
Additionally, in Switzerland, on a constitutional level, animal welfare is recognized as an essential principle of society which resulted in an animal welfare act that is based upon the dignity and well-being of animals and is, therefore, prohibiting both cruelty to animals and disrespect of their dignity. Furthermore, interdictions such as zoophilia (sexual intercourse with animals), the use of doping substances, pain or torture breeding and postal delivery of animals are protecting not only the physical and mental integrity of animals but also their dignity. To be illegal, these practices do not need to result in any physical or mental harm or suffering. Another major success was the change of the animal’s legal status. Since 2004, animals are not considered as objects anymore, which led to the changes of important provisions in different fields of law.
Despite some very progressive animal welfare legislation in Switzerland, there is still need for far reaching changes. On the one hand, the protection of the animal’s dignity leads to the ban of the (painless) inking of an animal's coat for aesthetical reasons and degrading depictions of animals. The dehorning of cows, the mass kill of day-old male chicken or the downright exploit of animals bred and kept for experimental or nutritional purposes, on the other hand, is still legal. The question is: How is this possible?.
Generally, it is unlawful to inflict pain, suffering, damage or anxiety upon an animal, or to violate its dignity by any other means without justification. In other words, it is legally accepted to do so if a hurtful action is considered to be more important than the animal's integrity. In addition, there are imprecise provisions and many exceptions either for certain animals or certain procedures. Therefore, the provisions, although relevant and welcome to animal welfare, are highly anthropocentric, defining only those animals as especially valuable that were lucky enough not to be born as an object of utility. Since there are various different stakeholders involved in the use of animals, there is no governmental aim to ending the exploitation of animals.
Also, the enforcement of animal welfare law breaches is concerning. In Switzerland, the responsibility to enforce breaches of animal welfare provisions is a cantonal matter and lies within the cantonal veterinary services. This leads to huge differences throughout the country. Sometimes, due to disinterest and indifference, there are still considerable lacks of both administrative and penal law implementation. Furthermore, animal welfare law breaches are often not understood as issues that need to be considered importantly.
In conclusion, even though the Swiss animal welfare law in some ways provides a better protection of animals than other countries, enormous cruelties to animals are still in place and can be legally justified if the human interest in using animals is classified as more significant than the animals interest in a peaceful life.
This comment on the Amendments to the German Animal Welfare Act of 2013 is intended to provide a short overview of the novel provisions in German animal welfare legislation, including comparison with the previous state of the law and providing an outlook going beyond the current state of the law. This overview is only exemplary and not exhaustive in detail, but to conclude the general amendments.
The article begins by looking back and summarizing the latest developments in German Animal Welfare Law within the last ten years in order to constitute a framework for the amended provisions. The author describes the new provisions concerning above all the implementation of the EU Directive 2010/63/EU 'Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes'. Further amendments are considered with regard to prohibitions of torture breeding and zoophilia, regulations of 'curative interventions' under anaesthesia and the Ministry’s power to issue statutory ordinances in some fields.
This article examines and compares the current regulations with the amended ones in a fundamental way and ascertains that no progress is achieved with the Amendment. The comment focuses on the legislative procedure, demonstrating and examining the parliament’s debates and finally pointing out public reactions.
The author’s conclusion is that the 2013 Amendment of Germany’s Animal Welfare Act is at best a toothless tiger and must actually be considered as symbolic legislation.