WSJ: In Zurich, Even Fish Have a Lawyer

From the Wall Street Journal:

ZURICH—Last month, Antoine Goetschel went to court here in defense of an unusual client: a 22-pound pike that had fought a fisherman for 10 minutes before surrendering.

Antoine Goetschel, the animal lawyer for Zurich. The Swiss will vote on whether to compel all Swiss cantons to hire animal lawyers.

Mr. Goetschel is the official animal lawyer for the Swiss canton of Zurich, a sort of public defender who represents the interests of pets, farm animals and wildlife. He wound up with the pike as a client when animal-welfare groups filed a complaint alleging animal cruelty in the fish’s epic battle with an amateur angler.

The case emerged after a local newspaper photo showed the fisherman proudly showing off the four-foot-long fish—a scene that, to Mr. Goetschel, was reminiscent of a safari hunter with his foot perched on the head of a dead lion. “It is this Hemingway thinking,” he says. “Why should this be legal when other animals have to be slaughtered in a humane way?”

Mr. Goetschel is the only official animal lawyer in Switzerland, but that may be about to change. On Sunday, the Swiss will vote on a referendum that would compel all of Switzerland’s cantons to hire animal lawyers. The rationale: If people accused of mistreating animals can hire lawyers, the victims of such abuse are also entitled to representation.

Read the full article here.

The animal lawyer is supposed to give teeth to the Swiss Animal Protection Law that some people think is not applied rigorously enough, e.g. in most instances, even in grave cases, a small fine is imposed even though the Animal Protection Law would authorize prison terms.

While the case mentioned in the article makes you wonder if this does not belong to the curiosity and the Switzerland-is-different-department there are much more serious cases of animal abuse.
However, it remains to be seen whether those animal attorneys – if approved in the referendum – will at some point take on large producers and owners of meat factories or if they just concentrate on cases of individuals abusing animals.

Personally, I am for it.

NB: Mr. Goetschel has a website.