Animal Law - Recent Legal Changes Influenced By Animal Rights Activists

Recent Legal Changes Influenced By Animal Rights Activists

Regarding the campaign to change the status of animals as property, the animal rights activists have seen success in several countries. In 1992, Switzerland amended its constitution to recognize animals as beings and not things. However, in 1999 the Swiss constitution was completely rewritten. A decade later, Germany guaranteed rights to animals in a 2002 amendment to its constitution, becoming the first European Union member to do so. The German Civil Code had been amended correspondingly in 1997. The amendment, however, has not had much impact in German legal practice yet.

The greatest success of the animal rights activists has certainly been the granting of basic rights to five great ape species in New Zealand in 1999. Their use is now forbidden in research, testing or teaching.(It should be noted that the UK government banned experiments on great apes in 1986 ). Some other countries have also banned or severely restricted the use of non-human great apes in research.

The Seattle-based Great Ape Project (GAP) — founded by Australian philosopher Peter Singer, the author of Animal Liberation, widely regarded as the founding philosophical work of the animal liberation movement — is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt its Declaration on Great Apes, which would see chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans included in a "community of equals" with human beings. The declaration wants to extend to the non-human apes the protection of three basic interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture (see also Great ape personhood).

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