Global Animal Law GAL in detail
Antoine F. Goetschel Korean Newspaper Interview
1. I read in your book Switzerland was the only country that stated the dignity of animals in the Constitution.
After that, Germany acknowledged the right of animals in the Constitution in 2002. The dignity of animals and the right of animals is different?
If it is different, is Switzerland still the only country to state the dignity of animals in the Constitution?
As the Founder and co-director of the Global Animal Law GAL Project we from GAL base our knowledge mostly on the GAL database on animal welfare legislation globally. If you are going through our Database there exist only very few states that protect the animals by their Constitution. A comparison shows those states being India, Egypt, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Within those six states, Switzerland is the only one not only to foresee traditional animal protection and the ban of cruelty in the Constitution. Further on it states the “Dignity of Creature” by Constitution and since 2005/2008 also by the law, which is indeed worldwide unique. With GAL we are working to expand globally and to support other nations to bring animals in the Constitution – with the notion of “Dignity of Creature” or “inherent value” as well. Now Germany in 2002, for example, and Austria since 2013, embraces the traditional “animal protection” by their Constitutions. “Animal rights” – as in your question – are not foreseen. From my knowledge and if you look closely to the content of certain of specific legislation in force there is (almost) nowhere the term of “animal rights” in legislation. Coming back to Germany and Austria, the basis of animal welfare or animal protection are not “legal rights” from animals towards the owner or keeper of the animal. It is just the legal and moral duty of those persons to take full care and responsibility for the animals the keep. In Switzerland, the classic animal protection concept is part of the Constitution since 1973. Beyond this we achieved together with political friends to adopt the term of “Dignity of Creature” in the Swiss Constitution in 1992. The Swiss Animal Welfare Act from 2005 and enacted with the Ordonnance in 2008 enhances classical animal protection and the dignity of creature. By that the law prohibits in principle specifically that an animal is excessively exploited, that no profound interference in an animals appearance or abilities is allowed or if an animals gets humiliated (Art. 3 a of the Swiss Animal Welfare Act). Several provisions in details give some clarification on the issue. Whereas German legislation first of all protects animals “because they can suffer” – as Jeremy Bentham gave the reason for animal welfare in 1789 – the Swiss legislator makes a step ahead and protects the “intrinsic value” of animals, based on the notion of the Danish Philosopher Laurids Smit in 1789 as well.
2. Is there any change in the use of animals to meet human interests such as animal experiments and zoos by expressing dignity in the Constitution?
By the fact that animal protection and even the dignity is protected by the Constitution of a nation, there is a legal way to equilibrate the human’s interest in their constitutional rights as the individual liberty (to visit a zoo for example) and the entrepreneurial freedom (to run a zoo or to make animal experiments for pharmaceutical reasons) on one side with the animal’s interest of no suffering and being acknowledged in its inherent value on the other hand. Therefore Constitutions are important to analyze from an animallaw point of view. Concretely there has been a shift towards animals through the dignity of creature in the field of animal experiments: The Swiss high court banned to two large series of animal experiments on primates in 2009 also with the argument that the primates were planned to be excessively exploited without that the experiment would show evidence of being as relevant as the suffering and exploitation of the animals would be justified. Also the Swiss national Circus resigned recently to use (or abuse, depending of the point of view) their elephants on their yearly tour. Here as well the argument of the violated dignity of elephants in circuses was brought up.
3. Although the word ‘animal dignity’ is included in the Animal Protection Act of Korea, there are no specific guides to be able to apply it in practice. If so, legislation is necessary in that case?
The term on “animal dignity” is a vague one, legally speaking. It does need specification in details. Therefore we from the animallaw side in Switzerland were bringing us into the debate how to specify this more philosophical and ethical term in a legally binding one. A little bit more precise are the principle bans of excessive exploitation, profound interference in an animal’s appearance or abilities and humiliation. Even a concrete ban has been expressed to any sexual human-animal interference (“Zoophilia”) as a manifestation of a violated dignity of an animal, even if the animal is not hurt or suffering. Beside declaring animal welfare as a state’s goal in the Constitution, yes: to clarify the term of dignity on the Korean Animal Protection Act No. 10995 from August 4th, 2011 with its last amendment dated March 24th 2014, seems to be necessary.
4. Korea treats the status of animals in the same way as goods in civil law.
I understand that you have compared and analyzed the animal protection laws of each country. I wonder if most countries treat animals the same way as objects or not.
Step by step one country after the other acknowledges animals to be a third category in the Law. So recently France, and before the Netherlands and Columbia. It started with Austria in Austria, took over to Germany – and by the end of a twelve year political debate I was priviledged to participate in Switzerland, it changed fundamentally in Switzerland in 2003 with several detailed provisions on lost and found animals, divorce law, inheritance law, compensation, pawn law and criminal law. It would be an honor for our Global Animal Law GAL Association with our local specialists to participate in a law making process by bringing knowledge and experience in this field to Korea?
5. In Korea, when an owner neglects an animal, punishment is only possible after the animal was killed.
In Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, how are owners punished when they leave animals without care?
Yes, the negligence of an animal is an offence and not depending of the death of an animal. Most of the about 700 cases I treated as the official animal welfare attorney of the Canton of Zurich in 2007 – 2010 were exactly those cases. In Germany and Austria the negligence of an animal is an offence and punishable as well. If the animal died after a shorter or longer period of suffering, the fine was higher.
6. In Korea, if an owner abuses an animal, the rescuer must give the animal back if he does not give up his ownership.
Also, if the owner tries to raise another animal, we cannot stop the person. In Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, I wonder what penalties are imposed on the owner in the above case.
If the animal’s suffering is high or if several animals are hurt and suffering, the state veterinary is obliged to interfere. As a measure against the suffering he can order a ban for keeping animals for short or definitely. By that the state veterinary can declare the rescuer to be the new owner with the option to find a more animal friendly place for the animals. The fines can vary from low to high, depending on the intensity and length of the suffering connected with the “abuse” of the animal. Even prison as a penalty can be outspoken, and has been under my governance.
7. In Korea, when a companion animal is dead, it is being disposed of in a general garbage bag. It is a controversial issue in Korea. Could you give us some advice on this matter?
In Switzerland, animal corpses do not belong in the garbage. Any municipality foresees a rendering plant where corpses are to be collected. The private veterinary or the waste disposal is foreseen to retrieve the corpse. The corpses of companion animals can be inhumed in a private garden or buried. From the rendering plant they are sent to one of the two facilities that produce animal meal out of the corpses. This makes about 80% of the companion animals in Switzerland. If animals are treated as third category in the law, when the animal’s dignity is respected and the hygiene is an issue, then the disposal of companion animals in a general garbage bag might be looked at as an uncomely behavior.
8. In Korea, if you violate the Animal Protection Act, you will be sentenced to up to one year in prison or a fine of 10 million won (about $8,000). What is the maximum penalty for Switzerland?
Afg: in Switzerland the maximum penalty is theoretically three years of prison, a fine of CHF 20’000.-, so about USD 20’000 and an individual fine depending of your wealth, theoretically up to 1 million USD. In practice, prison sentences are very rare and often under probation. A very useful tool to overview the law enforcement at least in criminal cases is the collection of all decisions on punishments on criminal cases in animal matters. For more the ten years, the Swiss Foundation for the Animal in the Law (I created in 1995) collects those cases and publishes them anonymized, systematized and analyzed on their website. This helps the law enforcement authorities very much to improve the decisions and to be compared to the other Cantons (districts) of Switzerland.
9. I read in the book that the department responsible for the animal defense in Switzerland closed in 2010. Please let me know more about the reason.
Afg: The official “Animal welfare attorney of the Canton of Zurich” existed from 1991 until 2010. I helped to create this office in the late 1980’s and was office holder from 2007 to 2010. As a result of the negative vote on a peoples initiative in Switzerland to ask for such an animal attorney in all the Cantons (districts) of Switzerland and related to the change of the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code, the Parliament of the Canton of Zurich voted against this office in 2010. The damage for the Canton is manageable, because when creating the law in 1991 it was foreseen that not only the animal lawyer has the position of an aggrieved party in the criminal procedures in animal matter. Also the veterinary office has the same rights, so they took the role after 2010. The very high level of numbers of procedures and penalties and fines in the Canton of Zurich could be maintained by them. So I had the capacity to right the book now published in Korea, to work more as an attorney in Switzerland and to create the Global Animal Law GAL Project.
10. In Korea, most laboratory animals are dead in the laboratory. There is no monitoring function whether the researchers test animals properly in the laboratory or not. Some people say the animals that were mobilized in the experiment are dangerous if leaked out. What is your opinion on giving a new opportunity to experiment animals?
Afg: Laboratory animals are worldwide a very big issue. These animals are exposed to partly very intense, long-term and specific suffering within the experiment and raised and kept under conditions that are partly very old fashioned and not at all similar to the conditions of companion animals. It is also recognized that the quality of the experiments can vary enormously and the experiments are often poorly designed, the same experiments executed professionally elsewhere and that the Three R’s (Reduce, Refine, Replace, a principle since 1959) is not respected strictly enough. Therefore Switzerland (and Germany) has installed a sophisticated procedure of state permit for animal experiments, checks and balances and, at least in the Canton of Zurich, the option for the three members of the animal experiments committee that give their opinion to the state veterinarian for the permit, to contest the permit at higher courts. By that, animals have a legal voice at least indirectly.
11. In Korea, the dogs for food are in a blind spot where animal law or stock raising law is not applicable. Some people say the dogs for food are traditional food cultures. Could you give us some advice on solving this problem? And how can you say to the people that it is okay to raise the dog under good conditions and slaughter in a humane way?
The dog eat issue is a very emotional one. There are rare cases in Switzerland as well where cats or dogs are eaten in private and so legally in rural areas – the public outcry also internationally is loud. In Europe and America companion animals are sort of banned from the list of edibles for emotional reasons. Whereas Indians might be offended by the fact of cow eating in Europe, that are declared holy in Indian traditions. From a professional perspective I appreciate any step towards the reducing of animal suffering. One would be a ban on eating dogs in Korea, that is enforced and supported by the majority of the population so that the ban is realistic and not thwarted. A less severe step is the integration of the dog raising, slaughtering (and eating) issue in the Animal Protection Act that seems to be one-sided if not taking all aspects into regard. If the tradition of dog eating is really one and deep in the mentality, than at least the housing conditions of those dogs that are raised for this purposes could be prescribed in the Law and Ordonnance. When I take a look in the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance on the housing conditions of dogs (table 10) I doubt if those seizes of surfaces and heights as minimal standards would be taken into regard be the Korean legislator and enforced. Therefore the suffering of the dogs might continue.
12. Most people consider companion animals and farm animals (the meat on the table) differently. But the dignity of life is the same. How can we persuade them that they have the same value?
From my personal point of view and described in my latest book, the barrier between companion animals and farm animals is emotional, not very scientific and not persisting. The animal’s interest in a good life, where all his behavioral repertoire can be expressed, is equal. It has also be respected toward invertebrates, especially some insects that are as of late declared eatable in Switzerland. The traditional instinct without taking too much attention to human-animal relationship takes less care to animals that seem more distant to humans, look unfriendly, do not respond to human actions and do not look similar. To overcome this mental barrier it needs education on animals, their being, behavior, social needs, abilities and, yes, their magic; from the butterfly that smells over 15 miles, to bees with their complex communication system to the individuality of each cow and dog. The animal in the Korean Constitution would motivate the state to accelerate his efforts in law making, law applying and education. As long the vast majority of a society still believes in meat eating and practices it, the barrier between farm and companion animals will most probably persist. Albeit the conviction will be growing in the majority of the population and law makers that as far as the real needs of farm animals in ethological and social and other aspects are really taken seriously, much stronger legal condition are to be worked out and enforced than before. Animal friendly eating habits will probably grow.
13. It is also argued that low-income people need some degree of mass breeding or sacrifice of animals to be able to eat cheap meat and eggs. What is your opinion?
To change eating habits and thinking patterns is a long run on a personal and on a society level. Looking at the scientific basis on the serious health implications of meat eating in general, in overdose specifically, the medical fraternity, the big food store chains, the veterinarians – at least the more independent thinking ones -, the consumer and the animal welfare and animal rights movement could co-operate on common or at least co-ordinated initiative for the next and over next step. Of course, animal friendly eating habits would exclude meat and fish, and veganism is looked at being a solution for many also ecological issues. To change the awareness for those steps is an issue of the state and of many interest groups.
Me for example not eating meat or fish for more than thirty years – I am healthy as a happy dolphin, by the way.
14. Please tell us about the most impressive event as an animal lawyer.
Afg: As far as moving minds is concerned, I’d like to pick out one popular case and one meeting. The case was a huge pike, so big old fish that has been drilled to exhaustion. If it had been a cat or a puppy treated in a similar way, the public outcry would be loud. But the fish – that is also a vertebrate and therefore protected by Swiss Animal Welfare act – was not attracting so much sympathy. The majority of the fisher lobby disliked the complaint against the fisherman and downplayed the fish’s stress and suffering then. Although the fishermen was acquitted by the judge, after having been sentenced by the state attorney, the recent public, ethical and scientific discussion acknowledges the fish’s capacity of stress and discontent due to fishing with too weak pivots over a long period of time. At a recent radio discussion on eating insects in Switzerland I argued that the insects of today are the fish yesterday: When looking to an animals behavioral repertoire – with or without spine – we question our cold hearted way we treated animals.
The meeting was the one with the first state attorney of the Canton of Zurich a few days after my inauguration in 2007: He expressed his gratitude for the institution of the animal attorney since 1992, because this specialized attorney supported the work of the public prosecutors very effectively. Whereas the prosecutors opposed to the animal attorney at the beginning, 15 years later the co-operation was smooth and efficient. What he with his prosecutors could do to help the animals and me in my function he asked. No opposition against the animal attorney was in the air, but a deep change of opinion towards animal’s needs and suffering has taken place.
This conversation assures me that with our common Global Animal Law GAL Project to assist in better law adoption, law enforcement and education to reduce animal’s suffering we are on track, needed and have a great future.
Read original Korean version on