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Authorities in focus Criticism mounts over animal cruelty case

Army trucks took the 90 confiscated horses to a military centre on Tuesday


Animal rights groups have criticised veterinary authorities for failing to prevent cases of animal cruelty following the arrest of a horse breeder in northeastern Switzerland earlier this week.

The Swiss Animal Protection group called for stricter and more controls of animal farms, especially in cases of suspected cruelty and of breeders known for failing to provide animal-friendly conditions.

However, Hans-Ulrich Huber, director of the main nationwide animal rights group, said the legal basis was sufficient.

“The principles set down in the law are good,” Huber is quoted in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper.

The 2005 law states that animals must be adequately kept and fed, as well as given enough space to move around.

The TIR Foundation, a centre of excellence for animals in law, ethics and society, uses stronger words. It accuses the Thurgau cantonal government of dragging its feet before intervening on a farm of a controversial horse breeder where at least 13 horses have been found dead over the past few months.

“A legal complaint filed two weeks ago would have been reason enough to take urgent measures,” Vanessa Gerritsen of the TIR Foundation told the Tages-Anzeiger and Bund newspapers in a syndicated interview.

Threats and warnings

Gerritsen also described as “unacceptable” the fact that the Thurgau veterinarian service pre-announced its controls, apparently to prevent an escalation of violence with the horse breeder.

The man, who has previous convictions for animal cruelty, apparently threatened officials.

The Swiss Armed Forces had bought horses from the farmer but suspended business relations with him in 2008 over conditions on the farm in Hefenhofen. But he still benefited from government subsidies.

Gerritsen said the Thurgau authorities only intervened because of massive public pressure, including street protests, a petition and a social media campaign.

She added that the national law was not implemented in the same way across the country’s 26 cantons and that some cantonal authorities, notably in rural regions, have been too lenient.

The Thurgau justice authorities on Wednesday confirmed that the VgT animal rights group filed a legal complaint against the cantonal veterinarian for failing to crack down on animal cruelty.

The farmer was detained on Monday and about 300 animals, including horses, cows, pigs and sheep, were removed from the farm near Lake Constance.

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