Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-xbgml Total loading time: 0.262 Render date: 2022-08-13T07:55:42.874Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

The Swiss Primate Case: How Courts Have Paved the Way for the First Direct Democratic Vote on Animal Rights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2021

Charlotte E. Blattner
Affiliation:
Institute of Public Law, University of Berne (Switzerland). Email: charlotte.blattner@oefre.unibe.ch.
Raffael Fasel
Affiliation:
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), London (United Kingdom). Email: r.n.fasel@lse.ac.uk.

Abstract

A citizens’ initiative was launched in 2016 in the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, demanding that the rights catalogue in the Cantonal Constitution be complemented by a fundamental right to life and a right to bodily and mental integrity for non-human primates. This initiative became the subject of a three-year legal dispute that ended with a decision of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in September 2020, ruling that the initiative is legally valid and must be put to the people for a vote. This case note discusses the key developments in the dispute, including the groundbreaking decision by the Constitutional Court of Basel-Stadt, which held that cantons are free to ‘expand the circle of rights holders beyond the anthropological barrier’. The authors, who were involved in the drafting of the initiative and acted as legal advisers in the judicial proceedings, offer first-hand insights into legal strategies and shed light on the importance of the case in the context of the ongoing efforts to secure rights for primates around the world.

Type
Case Comment
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

We would like to thank Visa A.J. Kurki, Alissa Palumbo Högger, and the anonymous TEL reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this case note.

Conflict of interest disclaimer: Both authors were involved in the drafting of the primate rights initiative and have acted as legal advisers to the supporters of the initiative in all stages of the legal dispute. Striving to adopt a neutral stance where possible, the authors report on all relevant arguments invoked on both sides of the legal dispute.

References

1 See, e.g., Arts 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New York, NY (US), 16 Dec. 1966, in force 23 Mar. 1976, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx.

2 See, e.g., Staker, A., ‘Should Chimpanzees Have Standing? The Case for Pursuing Legal Personhood for Non-Human Animals’ (2017) 6(3) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 485–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Peters, A., ‘Liberté, Égalité, Animalité: Human–Animal Comparisons in Law’ (2016) 5(1) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 25–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Some limited exceptions are outlined in Section 7 below.

3 On primates see generally C.P. Groves & J.R. Napier, ‘Primate (Mammal)’, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (2020), available at: https://www.britannica.com/animal/primate-mammal.

4 Kanton Basel-Stadt, Kantonsblatt Archiv, ‘Grundrechte für Primaten’, 22 June 2016, available at: https://www.kantonsblatt-archiv.ch/articles/18163.

5 Grand Council of Basel-Stadt, Decision, 10 Jan. 2018, Kantonsblatt No. 4, p. 59.

6 Constitutional Court of Basel-Stadt, 15 Jan. 2019, VG.2018.1, para. 3.7.3 (our translation).

7 Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Judgment, 16 Sept. 2020, 1C_105/2019.

8 See, e.g., R. Schmidlin, ‘Neue Regelungen im Tierschutzgesetz’, St Galler Tagblatt, 16 Dec. 2010, available at: https://www.tagblatt.ch/ostschweiz/wil/neue-regelungen-im-tierschutzgesetz-ld.439682.

9 Animal Protection Index, ‘Switzerland’ (2020), available at: https://api.worldanimalprotection.org/country/switzerland.

10 See Art. 120(2), Swiss Federal Constitution, 1999, available at: https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19995395/index.html; Häne, M., Fröhlich, B. Huber-Eicher & E., ‘Survey of Laying Hen Husbandry in Switzerland’ (2000) 56(1) World's Poultry Science Journal, pp. 2131CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 21.

11 J. Calfas, ‘This Country Is Making It Illegal to Boil Live Lobsters’, TIME, 16 Jan. 2018, available at: https://time.com/5103892/switzerland-boil-lobsters; Art. 179a(1)(j), Swiss Animal Welfare Ordinance (2008), available at: https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/20080796/index.html.

12 Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, ‘Eier’, 31 Mar. 2020, available at: https://www.blw.admin.ch/blw/de/home/markt/marktbeobachtung/eier.html; Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, ‘Agrarbericht 2020: Fleisch und Eier', 2020, available at: https://www.agrarbericht.ch/de/markt/tierische-produkte/fleisch-und-eier.

13 Swiss Animal Welfare Act, 2005 (SAWA), available at: https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/20022103/index.html.

14 Ibid., Art. 4(1)(b) (emphasis added).

15 Swiss Civil Code, 1907, Art. 641a(2), available at: https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classified-compilation/19070042/index.html.

16 Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Art. 10.

17 The interests and capacities-based approach to rights that has informed the primate rights initiative is not without its critics. Some have argued that this approach is ableist and threatens the rights of human beings who lack the relevant capacities: see, e.g., R.L. Cupp, ‘Cognitively Impaired Humans, Intelligent Animals, and Legal Personhood’ (2017) 69(2) Florida Law Review, pp. 465–518, available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2775288. Others contend that, according to this approach, only interests and capacities similar to those of humans warrant protection, and that, as a result, only animals who are like humans would be afforded rights: see especially Deckha, M., ‘Critical Animal Studies and Animal Law’ (2012) 18(2) Animal Law, pp. 207–36Google Scholar, at 231–4; Bryant, T.L., ‘Similarity or Difference as a Basis for Justice: Must Animals Be Like Humans To Be Legally Protected from Humans?’ (2007) 70(1) Law and Contemporary Problems, pp. 207–54Google Scholar; C.A. MacKinnon, ‘Of Mice and Men: A Fragment on Animal Rights’, in J. Donovan & C.J. Adams (eds), The Feminist Care Tradition in Animal Ethics (Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 316–33. We acknowledge this debate, but it is beyond the scope of this case note to consider this issue in detail.

18 See A.Z. Rajala et al., ‘Rhesusmonkeys (Macaca mulatta) Do Recognize Themselves in the Mirror’ (2010) 5(1) PLoS ONE, pp. 1–8; M.W. de Veer et al., ‘An 8-Year Longitudinal Study of Mirror Self-Recognition in Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes)’ (2003) 41(2) Neuropsychologia, pp. 229–34; Couchman, J.J., ‘Self-Agency in Rhesus Monkeys’ (2012) 8 Biology Letters, pp. 941CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Roberts, W.A., ‘Mental Time Travel: Animals Anticipate the Future’ (2007) 17(11) Current Biology, pp. 418–20CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Corballis, T. Suddendorf & M.C., ‘Behavioural Evidence for Mental Time Travel in Nonhuman Animals’ (2010) 215(2) Behavioural Brain Research, pp. 295–8Google Scholar.

19 See P. Singer, Animal Liberation, 2nd edn (Pimlico, 1990), pp. 15, 19; M. Nussbaum, ‘Beyond “Compassion and Humanity”: Justice for Nonhuman Animals’, in C.R. Sunstein & M. Nussbaum (eds), Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions (Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 300–19; T. Regan, ‘The Case for Animal Rights’, in P. Singer (ed.), In Defence of Animals (Basil Blackwell, 1985), pp. 13–26.

20 R. Fasel et al., ‘Fundamental Rights for Primates’, Policy Paper by Sentience Politics, May 2016, p. 6, available at: https://ea-foundation.org/files/Fundamental-Rights-for-Primates.pdf.

21 See Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Art. 36.

22 G. Biaggini, BV Kommentar, 2nd edn (Orell Füssli, 2017), Art. 36, para. 45.

23 C. Blattner, ‘Rethinking the 3Rs: From Whitewashing to Rights’, in K. Herrmann & K. Jayne (eds), Animal Experimentation: Working Towards a Paradigm Change (Brill, 2019), pp. 168–93, at 178–80.

24 Edmundson, W.A., ‘Do Animals Need Rights?’ (2014) 22(2) Journal of Political Philosophy, pp. 345–60Google Scholar, at 349.

25 Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Art. 139.

26 B. Studer, ‘Das Frauenstimm- und Wahlrecht in der Schweiz 1848–1971’ (2015) 26(2) Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, pp. 14–40.

27 Roche, ‘Roche in Switzerland’, 2020, available at: https://www.roche.com/careers/country/switzerland/ch-your-job/roche_in_switzerland.htm; Novartis, ‘Novartis in Switzerland’ (2020), available at: https://www.novartis.com/sites/www.novartis.com/files/passport-novartis-in-switzerland.pdf.

28 Estimate based on a personal visit and the Zoo's website, available at: https://www.zoobasel.ch.

29 Fasel et al., n. 20 above.

30 Constitution of Basel-Stadt, 2005, Art. 11, available at: https://www.gesetzessammlung.bs.ch/app/de/texts_of_law/111.100.

31 Sentience Politics, ‘Grundrechte für Primaten', 2020, available at: https://sentience-politics.org/de/politik/grundrechte-fuer-primaten-basel (authors’ translation). In German, the wording is: ‘Diese Verfassung gewährleistet überdies […] das Recht von nichtmenschlichen Primaten auf Leben und auf körperliche und geistige Unversehrtheit’.

32 Executive Council Basel, Kantonale Volksinitiative ‘Grundrechte für Primaten’ Bericht über die rechtliche Zulässigkeit und das weitere Verfahren, Report, 13 Dec. 2017, GD/P171389, pp. 1–10.

33 Grand Council of Basel-Stadt, n. 5 above, p. 59.

34 Swiss Civil Code, n. 15 above, Art. 11(1).

35 Ibid., Art. 53.

36 Executive Council Basel, n. 32 above, p. 6.

37 Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Art. 80(1) and (3).

38 Biaggini, n. 22 above, Art. 122, para. 3.

39 Ibid., Art. 80, n. 6.

40 L. Schärmeli & A. Griffel, ‘Artikel 80 BV’, in B. Waldmann, E.M. Belser & A. Epiney (eds), Bundesverfassung: Basler Kommentar (Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 2015), Art. 80, n. 17.

41 See Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Art. 80.

42 SAWA, n. 13 above, Art. 4(2); see also M. Michel, ‘Tierschutzgesetzgebung im Rechtsvergleich’, in M. Michel, D. Kühne & J. Hänni (eds), Animal Law: Tier und Recht (Dike, 2012), pp. 594–624, at 600.

43 S. Stucki, Grundrechte für Tiere (Nomos, 2016), p. 110.

44 See further Kymlicka, W., ‘Social Membership: Animal Law Beyond the Property/Personhood Impasse’ (2017) 40(1) Dalhousie Law Journal, pp. 123–55Google Scholar, at 148.

45 SAWA, n. 13 above, Art. 1 a contrario.

46 Stucki, n. 43 above, p. 103.

47 Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Judgment, 14 Dec. 2016, BGE 143 I 129, p. 132, para. 2.2; Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Judgment, 10 July 1985, BGE 111 Ia 292, pp. 299–300, para. 3c/cc.

48 Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Arts 34 & 36(2).

49 Constitutional Court of Basel-Stadt, n. 6 above.

50 Ibid., para. 3.3.

51 Ibid., para. 3.7.3 (authors’ translation).

52 Swiss Federal Constitution, n. 10 above, Art. 80.

53 Constitutional Court of Basel-Stadt, n. 6 above, para. 3.8.2.

54 Or, more precisely, to ‘tighten’ animal protection; see ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid., paras 3.8.3, 4.2.1, 4.2.3.

57 Ibid., para. 3.8.3.

58 With the caveat that these rights would have to be weighed against the right of researchers to scientific freedom; see ibid., para. 4.2.1.

59 Ibid., para. 3.8.3.

60 Ibid., para. 4.3.

61 Biaggini, n. 22 above, Arts 42–136, Vorbemerkung.

62 See Swiss Federal Supreme Court, Judgment, 26 Sept. 1984, BGE 110 Ia 176.

63 Swiss Federal Supreme Court, n. 7 above.

64 Ibid., pp. 5–6, para. 1.2. N. Jecker, ‘Höchst zweifelhafte Finanzierung: Kanton bezahlt Grossräten Beschwerde gegen Affen-Rechte,’ Basler Zeitung, 19 Nov. 2020, available at: https://www.bazonline.ch/kanton-bezahlt-grossraeten-beschwerde-gegen-affen-rechte-986041909486.

65 Swiss Federal Supreme Court, n. 7 above, p. 8, para. 6.2.

66 Ibid., pp. 8–11, paras 7.1–8.3.

67 Ibid., p. 11, para. 8.2.

68 See, e.g., Cochrane, A., ‘From Human Rights to Sentient Rights’ (2013) 16(5) Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, pp. 655–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar; J. Wills, ‘Human Rights and Animal Rights: A Synergistic Approach’, Conference paper delivered at the European Animal Rights Law Conference, 14–15 Sept. 2019, Cambridge (United Kingdom).

69 Swiss Federal Supreme Court, n. 7 above, pp. 9, 12, paras 7.1, 8.3.

70 Ibid., pp. 12, 14, paras 8.3, 9.2.

71 Ibid., p. 13, para. 9.1.

72 See, e.g., Staker, n. 2 above.

73 See Animal Protection Index (2020), available at: https://api.worldanimalprotection.org (which does not include granting fundamental rights to animals as a factor that influences how advanced states’ animal laws are).

74 Animal Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja et al. (2014), Supreme Court of India 2014 (5) SCJ 614.

75 Tercer Juzgado de Garantías Mendoza (2016), P-72.254/15, Ana María Hernández tr., 3 Nov. 2016, available at: https://www.nonhumanrights.org/content/uploads/2016/12/Chimpanzee-Cecilia_translation-FINAL-for-website.pdf.

76 Islamabad High Court (2020), W.P. No.1155/2019, Athar Minallah C.J.

77 Nonhuman Rights Project, ‘Litigation’, available at: https://www.nonhumanrights.org/litigation.

78 See, e.g., Tilikum et al. v. Sea World Parks & Entertainment Inc et al., Case No. 3:2011cv2476, (S.D. Cal. 2012), pp. 4–7.

79 See, e.g., Matters Nonhuman Rights Project v. Patrick C. Lavery et al. (2017) Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, Webber J., p. 10.

80 Constitutional Court of Basel-Stadt, n. 6 above, para. 3.7.3.

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Swiss Primate Case: How Courts Have Paved the Way for the First Direct Democratic Vote on Animal Rights
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Swiss Primate Case: How Courts Have Paved the Way for the First Direct Democratic Vote on Animal Rights
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Swiss Primate Case: How Courts Have Paved the Way for the First Direct Democratic Vote on Animal Rights
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *