Switzerland's largest animal-welfare group has launched a new popular initiative to seek legal representation for animals.
Declaring itself "far from satisfied" with the new law on animal protection adopted last week by parliament, Swiss Animal Protection (SAP) said it had decided to withdraw its original initiative to focus on this one key demand.
SAP's Heinz Lienhard told a news conference in Bern that the new law was a step forward but that important changes that could have improved the lives of millions of animals in Switzerland had not been incorporated.
The introduction of legal representation for animals was one of the main planks of the SAP campaign, which was omitted from the new legislation.
The organisation now has to collect 100,000 signatures to force a nationwide vote on the issue. The collection of signatures for the initiative "against the abuse of animals and for their better legal protection" should begin next April and finish at the latest in autumn 2007.
The aim is to anchor the position of an animal protection lawyer in the constitution.
According to SAP, the animals' lawyer would only intervene where there are failures in the investigation of possible animal mistreatment or where certain legal questions are raised.
Some animal protection lawyers already operate at the cantonal level and several cantons are discussing the introduction of such a role.
The new law includes measures to protect the dignity and well-being of animals. People who abandon animals, fail to respect their dignity or abuse them will face prosecution.
As regards transporting animals, the law limits the duration of the journey to six hours from the loading point. It also forbids the importation of cat and dog skins and related products.
The castration of piglets without anaesthetic will be banned from 2009, if no alternative more humane method is developed in the meantime.
Ritual slaughtering remains illegal. But the import of halal and kosher meat to respond to the needs of the Muslim and Jewish communities will still be allowed.
swissinfo with agencies
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.
The new animal protection law includes measures to protect the well-being of animals:
- legal sanctions against those who mistreat, abandon or fail to respect the dignity of animals;
- a limit of six hours on the duration of animal transports;
- to allow experiments on animals only when their suffering and the damage caused to them do not exceed the potential benefit.