International Law

Swiss to Take Vote on Whether Animals Must Have Lawyers in Court

On the cutting edge of animal-rights law, voters in Switzerland are poised to consider a ballot measure that would require each of the country’s cantons (in effect, states) to appoint an attorney to represent the interests of pets and farm creatures in court.

The country already is known for its progressive animal standards, which include bans on caging some animals individually and, as of 2013, tying horses when they are in stalls. But the Swiss Animal Protection group, which helped gather the 100,000 signatures needed to require the March 7 poll on the legal-representation question, says dedicated prosecutors are needed to ensure that animal-rights abuses are taken seriously, reports the Associated Press.

In Zurich, the pioneering canton already pays attorney Antoine Goetschel to represent some up to 200 animals annually at a rate of $185 per hour. Most are dogs, cats and cows. But he recently represented a dead pike, when the canton’s prosecutors contended that an angler had tortured the fish by fighting to land it for some 10 minutes, the news agency recounts.

They lost the case. Says Goetschel, “Fish don’t get much sympathy.”

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