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Parliament approves animal protection law

Under the new law, the transport of animals must not exceed six hours

(Keystone)

The Swiss parliament has passed a stricter law on animal protection which falls short of the demands of animal-rights campaigners.

The new law aims to protect the dignity and well-being of animals. People who abandon animals, harm their dignity or abuse them will in future face prosecution.

Switzerland's largest animal-welfare group, Swiss Animal Protection (SAP), launched its own proposals in the form of a people's initiative in 2002.

They included import bans, restrictions on experiments with animals and introducing legal representation for animals. Not all their demands are reflected in the new law.

Hansueli Huber of SAP told swissinfo that the organisation would now confer with its members and consider its options before deciding on the future course of action. The decision is expected on Friday.

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.

Meat imports

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.

A suggestion to give animals the right to legal representation in court was rejected during the debate. This is one of SAP's key demands.

The new law contains no provisions on dangerous dogs, although this has become a controversial subject since three Pitbull terriers killed a child near Zurich last month.

A parliamentary committee wanted to include a ban on the breeding and keeping of dogs that present a high risk to humans, but it was decided to leave this issue to the government.

Parties were split on whether the law should include mandatory labelling for products of animal origin, with the rightwing People's Party pushing for this.

However, the House of Representatives was ultimately satisfied that this provision could be included in laws relating to agriculture and foodstuffs.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

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.
About 63,000 animals have undergone genetic engineering.

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