From left to right: Dr. Antoine F. Goetschel, Alexandra Hammond-Seaman, Joy Lee and Paula Sparks

Earlier this month I attended a meeting of the Association of Lawyers for Animal Welfare which featured as guest speaker Dr. Antoine F. Goetschel, the Swiss animal welfare lawyer who was featured prominently in recent media. The meeting was chaired by Paula Sparks (ALAW). Alexandra Hammond-Seaman (RSPCA International) and Joy Lee (WSPA) commented on Dr Goetschel’s presentation and took part in the Q and A at the end of the. (I wrote earlier about Dr Goetschel here.)

The key parts to Dr Goetschel’s presentation included a discussion on the animal welfare vs. animal rights issue. As a practicing attorney who represented animals in court, Dr Goetschel favoured framing the issue broadly as an animal welfare issue. He said that there was nothing wrong with animal rights; however, in the current legal situation in Switzerland the terms of reference had to be animal welfare as that is what the law recognised. He also spoke about the need to gather information about court cases and prosecutions to do with animals, collect data and analyse it to determine the current situation and move forward to more effective laws and their enforcement. He spoke of a database he and his colleagues had assembled of hundreds of court cases. This database is used to compare and contrast legal cases to identify what improvements could be made to the system. He framed the issue of animal welfare as a “normality” and that mistreatment of animals is recognised morally and legally as abnormal.

I’m really appreciative of ALAW making it possible for us to spend time with Dr Goetschel and learn about his activities and ideas.

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