Animal rights scholar wins prize for outstanding women researchers

Blattner, a lecturer at the University of Bern, shows how extraterritorial jurisdiction could be applied to animal welfare and allow countries to sanction their own nationals or companies for violations outside their borders. © Snf/cornelia Vinzens

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has awarded legal expert Charlotte Blattner the 2020 Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize for her dissertation on applying an established tool for protecting human rights to animal welfare across national borders.

This content was published on October 21, 2020 - 18:47

Blattner’s doctoral dissertationExternal link addresses the lack of protections for animals used in agriculture and medical research. Billions of male chicks are shredded around the world each year because they cannot be used for slaughter, for example – yet there is little repercussion for the industry, since companies can simply move abroad to avoid animal welfare regulations.

“States compete for location,” said Blattner in a statement released by the SNSF on Wednesday. “They adapt their laws to the interests of investors and producers and refuse to enact effective standards for protecting animals or upholding existing laws.”

The University of Bern lecturer shows how extraterritorial jurisdiction, a principle that allows states to apply domestic laws abroad and which is widely used in human rights protection and business law, can be applied to animal welfare.

Countries with advanced animal protection regulations could sanction their own nationals or companies for violations abroad, she argues.

The prize, worth CHF25,000 ($27,600), is awarded each year to an outstanding woman researcher benefiting from an SNSF grant. Its namesake was the first Swiss woman to study medicine. Marie Heim- Vögtlin was admitted to the University of Zurich’s medical school in 1868 and went on to open her own gynaecological practice, juggling a medical career and motherhood.

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