If enough Swiss citizens check the “yes” box in a referendum to be held this Sunday, cats, chickens and pigs across Switzerland will be entitled to state-appointed legal representation.
The Swiss Animal Protection (STS) league, which gathered the 100,000 signatures required for the referendum to be held, hopes that appointing attorneys to represent animals in court will lead people to take infringements upon animal rights and animal abuse more seriously.
The canton (or state) of Zurich appointed the first animal-welfare attorney in 1992. But the model for the current initiative is Antoine Goetschel, a Zurich-based lawyer who was appointed to the position in 2007. In this function, Goetschel acts much like a public prosecutor, representing the state’s interests in animal-welfare cases.
Over the last three years, he has worked on wide array of cases, ranging from the one about the woman with 149 cats to the bizarre incident of the fish that a fisherman kept dangling on the line for too long.
Not everyone backs the plan. Farmers, hunters and pet breeders have voiced their opposition to the idea, believing it will result in more legislation and stricter rules, and some opponents have even launched a campaign called “No to the Useless Animal Lawyers.”