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Senate gives greater protection to animals

The Senate has moved to ease the suffering of piglets Keystone

The Senate has voted for tougher rules governing the treatment of animals, but stopped short of imposing a ban on certain imports, demanded by animal welfare activists.

The chamber on Wednesday unanimously agreed to a series of measures, including phasing out the castration of pigs without anaesthetic.

The measures went beyond proposals put forward by the government to update the 25-year-old animal protection law.

But senators threw out a people’s initiative seeking to ban all imports of animal products from countries whose animal protection standards do not match those of Switzerland.

By going further than the government, the Senate’s measures are in effect a counter-proposal to the people’s initiative. The public may still have the final say, once the revision has passed through the House of Representatives.

A key aspect of the senators’ package included banning the castration of pigs without anaesthetic by 2009, although they accepted that the deadline could be extended to 2011, if feasible alternatives were not yet in place by then.


The government had argued that better training for people who deal with animals and improving enforcement of the 1978 law would be sufficient.

Before the Senate vote, Urs-Peter Müller of the Federal Veterinary Office told swissinfo that a radical change to the existing law was unnecessary. “We do not [need to] modify the level of the protection itself because that level is internationally still very [high].

“Swiss animals are not different from French or German animals so why should we have a stronger protection level?” he added.

The Senate would not go so far as to impose new limits on the journey time for transporting livestock – as demanded by animal welfare groups. But it did say that care should be taken to keep journeys as short as possible and to avoid unnecessary delays.

Animal experiments

It also shied away from a ban on animal experiments which cause extreme suffering, but urged that the likely suffering of an animal be balanced against the expected gain in knowledge from the experiment in question.

The measures are unlikely to satisfy animal welfare groups, which accuse the government of kowtowing to the farmers’ lobby – a formidable political force.

Swiss Animal Protection (SAP), the largest of the animal welfare groups, stepped up the pressure in July when it submitted the people’s initiative – the first step to forcing a nationwide vote on the issue – which the Senate has just rejected.

That initiative “For a Modern Protection of Animals (Animal Protection – Yes)” sought to have animal protection rules enshrined in the constitution.

It was uncompromising in its demand for an import ban on animal products from countries which do not conform to Swiss protection standards.

“It’s a big problem that the [government’s proposed new law] permits cruelty against some animals,” said Roman Weibel, head of a cattle protection group based in St Gallen. “In a modern country like Switzerland you can’t have cruelty to animals.”

swissinfo with agencies

The Senate’s measures went beyond proposals put forward by the government to update the 25-year-old animal protection law.

It voted to ban the castration of pigs without anaesthetic by 2011 at the latest.

But senators shied away from imposing new restrictions on journey times for transporting livestock or animal experiments.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR