Legal Beagles: Do Animals Need Lawyers?

April 14th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Should animals have lawyers to protect them from humans?

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The Responsibility Project

A recent Swiss vote to decide if abused pets and farm animals should be represented by attorneys had citizens rethinking the rules of responsibility between man and beast. Writing in Time magazine, Helena Bachmann reported that proponents of increased animal protection contend animals need lawyers because “the current laws dealing with animal abuse aren’t strong enough to secure convictions against those (people) suspected of cruelty.”

Switzerland is “rapidly emerging as the European champion of animal rights,” says London’s Sunday Times. Under current Swiss law, “goldfish, canaries, and guinea pigs are considered ‘social animals’” and shouldn’t be left alone. “[Being left alone] ignores the animals’ needs as a species, such as having a companion,” says Antoine Goetschel, Zurich’s official “Lawyer for animal welfare in criminal matters,” the only such government lawyer in the country.

The proposed new law — which would have mandated an animal rights attorney for every one of Switzerland’s 26 state-like cantons — ultimately failed to win approval from voters, including opposition groups of farmers’ associations and pet breeders. “Animal rights advocates are useless to animals,” an opposition committee declared. “They can’t prevent animal abuse because they only get involved after it has been perpetrated.”

Should animals have lawyers to better protect them from humans?