Switzerland now has a political party dedicated to helping animals. According to the Mail & Guardian, the new party — TierPartei Schweiz (TPS) or Animal Party Switzerland — hopes to “represent the interests of animals in politics and the economy.” The founding members include an economist, a lawyer, and the head of the Swiss vegetarian union. If you happen to be a multilingual reader, you can visit their web site.

The Animal Party’s goals are promising:

  • Protection of animals and promotion of their interests.
  • Improving the relationship between man and animal.
  • Replacement of animal experiments with medically and ethically acceptable methods.
  • Strengthening of sustainable, ethical principles in Swiss agriculture.
  • Protection and promotion of the natural habitats of animals.
  • Promotion of an innovative, environmentally responsible, and ethically and socially acceptable economy.
  • Support of a sustainable energy policy.

Switzerland actually has, in general, a pretty good record when it comes to animal issues. A 2008 law established rights of sorts for animals, and is considerably more far reaching than any type of animal law in the U.S. For example, the law made it illegal “to flush goldfish alive down a toilet, and owners of some animals such as budgies and hamsters must guarantee that the animals have social companions.” In addition, the law requires people who want dogs to go through a certification program to ensure they are responsible companions to their canine friends. Farmers are forbidden from tethering “horses, sheep and goats, nor keep pigs and cows in areas with hard floors.”

Of course, Switzerland is not perfect when it comes to animals. Earlier this year, Swiss voters overwhelming rejected a vote that would have required each canton (or district) to appoint a lawyer to act on behalf of animals at the taxpayers’ expense. Less than 30 percent of voters were in favor of the measure. The interpretation of this vote, along with bureaucratic incompetence, has led to the strong possibility that the nation’s only official animal welfare attorney will be out of a job next year.

Then there are the cat issues.

For one, the New York Times has reported that “it is legal in Switzerland to shoot feral cats as well as domestic ones that stray more than 200 yards from their homes.” The country is also known for its fondness of blankets made of cat fur. Proving that even a progressive, educated populace isn’t immune to cruel, stupid superstitions, some Swiss believe cat fur is good for rheumatism. Thankfully, Switzerland banned the grotesque cat fur trade, but only after an outcry over tales of catnapping and the deceitful practices of furriers.

Still, these complaints should not overshadow the fact that Switzerland is one of the most forward-thinking nations when it comes to issues concerning animal welfare. With the launch the Animal Party Switzerland, I look forward to things getting even better.

Photo Credit: TierPartei Schweiz