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Switzerland referendum on providing lawyers for animals

DogsA nationwide referendum is taking place in Switzerland on a proposal to give animals the constitutional right to be represented in court.

Animal rights groups say appointing state-funded animal lawyers would ensure animal welfare laws are upheld, and help prevent cases of cruelty.

Opponents say Switzerland does not need more legislation regarding animal protection.

The Swiss government has recommended that voters reject the idea.

There is already one animal lawyer in Switzerland.

Zurich has made legal representation for animals in cruelty cases compulsory since 1992.

The current incumbent is Antoine Goetschel. He has gone to court on behalf dogs, cats, cows, sheep, and even a fish.

Animal ‘minority’

He believes speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves is the essence of justice.

“For me the animals are one of the weakest parts in society and they need to be better protected.

“So, it’s kind of a fight for a minority that needs to be supported. And to make legislation more respectful towards humans and animals as a whole.”

But Switzerland has very strict animal welfare laws, and the Swiss government, conscious that the taxpayer would have to pay the fees for a nationwide system of animal lawyers, has recommended voters reject the idea.

And there is opposition from Switzerland’s powerful farming lobby.

Struggling with reduced subsidies and falling milk prices, Swiss farmers say animal lawyers would simply add another layer of bureaucracy to a system already overburdened with animal protection legislation.

By Imogen Foulkes – BBC News

Animal welfare organizations described a recent Halloween-costume contest for dogs as cruel. If this dog had been Swiss, it might have had a lawyer.

AFP – Animal welfare organizations described a recent Halloween-costume contest for dogs as cruel. If this dog had been Swiss, it might have had a lawyer.

AP – ANTOINE GOETSCHEL

Although he runs a legal practice in Zurich focused on property and family law, Antoine Goetschel has been interested in animal-rights law for 20 years. Goetschel helped launch the Foundation for the Animal in Law and start its library of information on the subject. He has written several books on the subject and served on government panels drafting animal-welfare legislation. Since 2007, he has been the “animal advocate” for the canton of Zurich, handling between 150 and 200 related cases a year.

Germany’s SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with Goetschel about about the job, the vote’s chances of success and why eco-friendly Switzerland needs even more animal-protection laws:


SPIEGEL ONLINE: How are you feeling about the referendum? Do you think it will succeed?

Antoine Goetschel: There is a Lou Reed lyric that talks about the “power of positive drinking.” But, seriously, I do feel positive. Even some of the opponents of the referendum say they think it will be positive. Other opponents have been mingling fact with fiction and coming up with some disturbing arguments against it. But the mass media have been reporting on this a lot, so I’m confident that the Swiss population will confirm its sympathy toward animals with a “yes.”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will happen if they do?

Goetschel: First, any legislation will have to be debated by the Swiss government. But if that goes ahead, then, if I were the government, I would think about creating some sort of academy or educational forum for animal-welfare attorneys. One needs skills that are not necessarily learned at law school.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Such as?

Goetschel: It’s not enough to just be an attorney and love animals. You can easily lose your credibility if you over-identify with the animal. In my experience, an animal-rights lawyer needs a warm heart and a cool head. They need experience not only in animal-welfare law, but also in criminal law. They need to know whether this witness is credible or whether that argument will be enough to convince a judge, and so on. They must be skilled at mediation and have the confidence of animal-welfare organizations. They must also know how to speak to farmers and dog breeders. And journalists — because, in this position, you will come under a lot of public pressure.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will happen if the referendum fails?

Goetschel: Let’s not focus on that. But, in the very unlikely case that the Swiss population is puzzled (by this referendum), then I think that in the cantons where people did vote “yes,” the government administrations will still take it seriously. If the state voted yes, then the canton must appoint animal-welfare attorneys. Otherwise, the state government would be working against voters who acted in good faith. If you look at the data base we have compiled of all the animal welfare cases in Switzerland, you can see that in Zurich, for example, there are 190 cases a year, whereas in other states there is only one case a year. Some states take this work more seriously than others.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What else have you been doing to support the campaign to appoint animal-welfare attorneys?

Goetschel: I’m not a member of the initiating body. I’m just a person who knows a lot of the history and who knows all the arguments. So I can explain the job.

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.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How would you respond to the criticism that you just want to create more work for yourself and other lawyers?

Goetschel: Actually it’s a very poorly paid line of work. I don’t just do animal welfare work; I also practice regular law. As an animal-welfare attorney, I get about 200 francs an hour (€137/$186). For other work, I get between 350 and 400 francs an hour. If I didn’t do this, I could start to make more money as an attorney.

Interview conducted by Cathrin Schaer

Posted:  Just One More Pet

March 7, 2010 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Pets, Political Change, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animal Protection Repression-Files Prove Political Motivation in Austria

10 chained animal activists in orange Guatanamo-suits staged a protest outside the Austrian Home Office this week to highlight police repression against animal protection

Vienna, 16th May 2009

The special commission set up by the Austrian Home Office in 2006 has carried out the most extensive investigation operation since the founding of Austria’s 2nd Republic against the animal advocacy movement. In this political move to wipe out legitimate work on behalf of animals, VGT has been particularly severely hit.

The political background to this case can be shown clearly by the following points:

  • Although legally obliged to present all evidence showing an accused person’s innocence, police have omitted all such findings from their final reports. This includes results of DNA tests, tracking devices, surveillance, bugging operations and under cover agents, as well as the existence of concrete alibis. These things are simply not mentioned. It is as if they never took place.
  • On 24 February 2009 a judge ruled that police were no longer allowed to restrict those accused having access to their complete files. Following this ruling the special commission completed the final reports even though the investigations have not been formally closed. Why? The law states that once final reports have been submitted it is permissible to restrict access to files and this is exactly what the police have now done! The police are fully prepared to undermine and ignore a court ruling.
  • In minutes from one of the special commission’s meetings from 19 June 2008 it is detailed how those present discuss how best to destroy VGT: taking away the organisation’s charity status is what they come up with. Without having charitable status VGT would have to pay tax on all donations over the last years, effectively financially destroying the organisation. And just this has happened: On 30 April this year police started actions to have VGT’s charitable status taken away.
  • In an internal report form the special commission dated 23. 1. 2008 it is documented that, from now on all information stands and events to do with animal protection “regardless of the topic“ are to be visibly heavily policed through out the whole country with the aim to “give the public the impression that animal campaigners are extremely dangerous”.
  • As a medium-term solution the commission orderd that all targets of information stands, for example, fur shops “are to be protected by a 100 m distance between information stand and shop”. This effectively prohibits any information stands within a 100 m radius, although there have never been any problems or aggression which could justify such a move. The head of the commission proudly announced these measures which totally contravene the right of assembly law: “The militant animal campaigners throughout the whole of Austria will experience resistance from the National Security Agency for the first time”.
  • The special commission has collected an extensive DNA database on campaigners. In a file dated 2 July 2007 it states that plain clothed officers stole bottles of drink from campaigners at information stands in order to have them DNA tested. Similarly, cutlery and plates were taken during the raid on the VGT office for DNA analysis. No legal authorisation was given for these procedures.
  • Green MP Peter Pilz was given access to confidential police documents in connection with this case. Peter Pilz exposed these documents on his website http://www.peterpilz.at. The documents show not only that police advised the animal protection movement’s political opponents how to represent themselves to the media, and recommended measures they could take against legal animal protection actions, but also that the head of Vienna’s Police Force was instructed to “utilize all administrative possibilities to stop information stands and protests taking place“.

VGT’s DDr Martin Balluch commented: “With these documents we can prove that the police allowed themselves to be used as a political instrument, carrying out politically influenced measures, which were in part unlawful, in order to attack the animal advocacy movement. This is an alarm signal for democracy. With today’s action here in front of the Home Office we call on all citizens and especially all those in positions of responsibility to ensure that the police be held to account for their actions and that we bring Austria back to being a constitutional state”.

If you live outside of Austria please write to the Austrian Minister of the Interior asking her to bring an end to the repression of Austrian NGO work on behalf of animals. You can see a sample letter/e-mail and find her address here:
http://www.vgt.at/presse/news/2009/news20090421m_en.php

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And this should be an alarming issue to Americans and aninal advocates everywhere!!  Animal Advocacy Groups are listed on U.S. Homeland Security’s rightwing extremists list…

     

    Vienna, 14th May 2009

    Misuse of Law Crushes NGOs

    Austrian animal advocates gathered this week on the steps of the Ministry of Justice to symbolize the misuse of Austrian Mafia law 278a crushing free speech and legitimate NGO work.

    The final police reports in this case leave absolutely no doubt that classic NGO-work is being criminalised. Be it school talks on animal rights, founding new groups, negotiating with companies and running legal campaigns, as well as animal rights conferences, investigations into animal abuse, actions of civil disobedience and computer encryption.

    25 activists were being squashed by giant “§ 278a”-symbols directly in front of the ministry of justice, where in the coming weeks it will be decided whether charges will be brought against the animal activists for forming a criminal organisation or not.

    May 23, 2009 Posted by | animal abuse, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rescues, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Political Change, Stop Animal Cruelty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Successful Protest by the Companion Animal Protection Society in West Hollywood, CA!

    SUCCESSFUL PROTEST BY THE COMPANION ANIMAL PROTECTION SOCIETY IN WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA!

    Protest

    On Saturday May, 2009 activists and celebrities protested with the Companion Animal Protection Society in front of Elite Animals Pet Store in West Hollywood California. West coast director, Carole Raphaelle Davis organized the protest in front of Elite Animals Pet Store. The pet store in West Hollywood sells dogs from puppy mills in the Midwest and is defrauding customers, lying about the conditions the dogs are from. The city of West Hollywood, CA passed a resolution against the sale of puppy mill dogs last year. Elite Animals has ignored efforts by the City of West Hollywood to come in for a meeting to discuss the evidence in an open forum with representatives from several national animal welfare organizations. The protest was the lead story on KTLA news the same evening.

    More of the Protest 

    West Coast Director of the Companion Animal Protection Society, Carole Raphaelle Davis, being interviewed by KTLA Channel 5 News Team.

    Source:  CAPS – Companion Animal Protection Society

    Publication date: 2009-05-06

    Posted: Just One More Pet – 2009-05-09

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    May 9, 2009 Posted by | Animal Rescues, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Events, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Political Change, Stop Animal Cruelty, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment