THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- FEBRUARY 24, 2018
If your pet is within earshot you may not want to read this column aloud. If Fido or Fluffy overhear this, they may pack a bag and book a one-way ticket to Switzerland. Why? Because when it comes to being a pet, Switzerland may be as close to Nirvana as it gets.
Last week I wrote about the South Korean predilection toward consuming dog meat. Clearly, if you are a dog in that country the main thing on your mind every day is whether you'll be served dinner or served for dinner. Being a dog in South Korea is no stroll in the dog park. (https://www.neffzone.com/cadillacnews/2018february17/)
Thinking about animals and dinner, a front page article in USA Today caught my attention: “Switzerland makes it illegal to boil a lobster.” The article went on to explain: “A law takes effect March 1 that bans the common cooking method of tossing a live lobster into a pot of boiling water...because the Swiss say it's cruel and lobsters can sense pain.”
The goal is to render them unconscious before plunging them into scalding water. “Two methods are recommended: electrocution or sedating the lobster by dipping it into saltwater and then thrusting a knife into its brain.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/02/16/new-swiss-law-pain-free-deaths-lobsters-flushing-goldfish-down-toilet-breaking-law-according-new-swi/341412002/)
Maybe it's just me, but none of these methods seems very appealing from a lobster's point of view. Then I began to wonder if there was more to this story than just crustacean sensibilities. It turns out that Switzerland has animal dignity laws written into its constitution. 'It is the only country with such a provision. The Constitution protects how various species must be treated.”
If you so desire, you can read the “Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance” at the Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center (and other sources): “This piece of legislation is comprehensive, including laws on animal husbandry, animal research, companion animals, breeding, transport and slaughter.” (https://www.animallaw.info/statute/switzerland-cruelty-swiss-animal-protection-ordinance and https://www.globalanimallaw.org/downloads/database/national/switzerland/Tierschutzgesetz-2005-EN-2011.pdf)
According to the Swiss Info website, Lobsters are just the latest animal included in the law. “Live crustaceans, including the lobster, may no longer be transported on ice or in ice water. Aquatic species must always be kept in their natural environment. Crustaceans must now be stunned before they are killed...A similar law came into effect in neighbouring Italy earlier this year.” (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/animal-welfare_switzerland-bans-crustacean-cruelty-/43814438)
So how does this all relate to your pet? Well, the law is far reaching and Care2.com says, “Switzerland is a great place to be a pet.” (https://www.care2.com/causes/10-reasons-switzerland-is-a-great-place-to-be-a-pet.html)
For example, being a dog owner is not as simple as just going to the shelter and selecting a puppy. “Before bringing a dog into a new home, a person must provide a certificate of competence (a three lesson course) demonstrating that they know how to deal with and treat dogs. Dogs have to be exercised daily, according to what they need, and, as much as possible, off leash. Dogs that are tied up must be able to run around freely for at least five hours a day, and the rest of the time, must be able to move around in at least 20 square meters of space.”
If you're a cat owner, you are required by law to make sure your cat interacts with other cats. “The Swiss have your cat’s social life in mind, too — if a cat doesn’t have a feline companion at home, he or she must be able to go outside to socialize with others, or at the very least, be able to see other cats from home.”
The law covers small animals too. For instance, parrots are required to have a companion. Goldfish, too, must have friends to swim around with. This might seem logical, but how you accomplish goldfish introductions is a head-scratcher for me. What do you do if one of the fish is a jerk?
For rabbits, “enclosures must have a dark area so bunnies have a place to go when they feel stressed.” It seems to me that determining the stress level of a hare might be rather difficult. Are there rabbitology psychiatrists?
I once owned a Guinea pig named Harvey. He was pretty cool and earned his keep by whistling every time someone came into our house. In Switzerland, “Guinea pigs must have regular playdates with other members of their species.” Sounds simple, but my guess is that complying with this law is not so easy. Don't believe me? Ask the next one hundred people you meet if they are interested in setting up a Guinea pig playdate.
Okay, so I'm having a bit of fun with this at the expense of the fine people in Switzerland. The truth is that I have owned pets of several species over the years. I'd like to think I have always been a caring and responsible pet owner.
Seriously, the ethical treatment of animals is a good goal. Care2.com notes: “While Switzerland, like most other countries, are far from achieving perfect animal welfare laws, they have made some good progress that other countries would do well to keep an eye on.”
Swiss Info gets down to the real objective: “The Federal Veterinary Office has launched an information campaign entitled 'Keeping animals properly', giving helpful tips about looking after animals ranging from cats and dogs to horses and chickens.
We don't want a state which spies on its citizens. We are not going to have the police searching individual households to see how your (animal is doing). But if serious abuses of animals are reported the cases have to be taken seriously.” It's a worthy concept and useful information for your pets when they apply for Swiss citizenship.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.