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1:48 PM   April 21, 2015
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Switzerland—For and Against Animals



In Switzerland, it is compulsory for dog owners to sign up for a course to learn how to look after their pets. Behavioral aspects of pet care in Switzerland result in some of the most far-reaching animal rights legislation enacted in any country worldwide. Pets, including goldfish and budgerigars, cannot be kept alone for example, as they are deemed social by nature, and as such, housing requirements for many species are spelled out in detail.

However, in a recent referendum, approximately seven out of 10 voters (based on a turnout of 45 percent of the electorate) rejected the idea that state-funded lawyers should be assigned to represent the interest of animals in court, as a means of acquiring a higher conviction rate in alleged cases of animal cruelty.

It is thought that, aside from the views put forward by opponents, including the government, which argued the country did not require any further legislation; it was the potential cost of such a scheme that swayed voters’ opinions against it. Even in the canton of Zurich, which already has a lawyer assigned to animal welfare cases, the electorate rejected the proposal.


Set against this background, it struck me as very strange when I read recently that in contrast to all other European countries, you can still buy domestic cat pelts legally in Switzerland. They cost the equivalent of about $4.70 each. The pelts are made into clothing and are used in the manufacture of blankets, being reputed to help in the treatment of rheumatism.

Worse still, in the eyes of campaigners, is the admission made on French television that cats are actually eaten, too, being traditionally cooked with the herb thyme. These are all native pet cats, as in 2006, Switzerland passed a law banning the import of cat pelts from abroad because of concerns over the way that the cats may have been killed for their fur. Particular gruesome stories have emerged from China, which is reputedly a center for breeding cats commercially for this trade.

Back in Switzerland, you supposedly don’t have to wander very far in search of a cat if you are looking for one to catch. It is said to be legal to trap them if they stray just 200 yards from their owner’s home. In spite of various petitions, including one signed by more than 131,000 people--among them F1 racing driver Michael Schumacher and actress and animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot--the trade is still seemingly continuing.

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