The BBC reported recently that Switzerland will vote on at least one and possibly two animal rights referendums raising the legal status of animals, though the BBC story was a bit confusing on what exactly will be decided.
According to the BBC, current Swiss law treats animals as a simple form of property like any other. Several animal welfare groups have obtained 100,000 signatures to advance a ballot measure that would recognize animals as “living beings.”
The BBC reports that another animal welfare group in Switzerland is gathering signatures for a much more reaching measure that would, among other things, “call for the respect of an animal’s dignity, emotions and ability to feel pain, as well as for its own set of rights to be enshrined in the constitution.”
This latter measure sounds more akin to a true animal rights proposal, with the BBC noting the measure would require judges to take into account animal’s interests in making decisions such as how to dispose of animals as part of an owner’s estate.
It should be duly noted that although animal activists have been relatively successful in collecting signatures for ballot measures in Switzerland, they have not necessarily had a good track record in passing the more extremists proposals. In 1998, for example, Swiss voters soundly defeated a ballot measure that would have banned the genetic engineering of plants and animals.
Swiss ponder animal rights. Claire Doole, The BBC, September 3, 2000.
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