Voters to decide on basic rights of primates

The initiative aims to grant chimpanzees and other primates basic rights. Keystone/Eddy Risch

Switzerland’s highest court has given the go-ahead for a vote in Basel City on whether to enshrine the basic rights of primates in the cantonal constitution.

This content was published on September 16, 2020 - 16:20

Federal Court judges rejected an appeal by several private individuals who had argued that such a ballot was illegal. The individuals had claimed the cantonal initiative violated national animal rights legislation and campaigners had failed to inform citizens about the limited scope of their proposal.

The Lausanne-based court ruled that cantons are allowed to introduce regulations that are stricter than national law, according to statementExternal link published on Wednesday.

The judges pointed out that the constitutional amendment would only benefit primates held by state institutions but not the pharmaceutical companies or zoos.  

The people’s initiative, launched by the Sentience PoliticsExternal link group in 2016, demands an amendment to the constitution for “a right to life for non-human primates and a right to physical and mental integrity”. Campaigners collected the necessary number of signatures for a public ballot.

A Basel court had dismissed a first complaint against the legality of the initiative in 2019.

Two years ago, Sentience also launched a nationwide initiative banning large-scale livestock production in Switzerland. A date for a vote on the issue is still to be set under the rules of the country’s direct democracy system.

The government has come out against the proposal, but it is preparing a constitutional reform in a bid to give animal welfare a boost.

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In compliance with the JTI standards

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