Germany acts to give animals constitutional rights
BERLIN - Germany\'s parliament voted to give animals constitutional rights last week, a step unprecedented in Europe which had animal lovers cheering but some groups questioning politicians\' priorities.
Over 540 members of parliament voted in favour of a amendment to the country\'s 53-year-old constitution to include the protection of animals. Just 19 politicians opposed the change, while 15 abstained.
The move, widely expected to be approved by Germany\'s second chamber, was essentially a symbolic gesture aiming to \"protect animals by legislation\", the amendment said without mentioning specifics. But its supporters said it gave animal rights a new moral weight.
Greens party politicians, who campaigned for the change for a decade, said existing laws had not done enough to protect animals from harm.
\"Previously...animal rights came into conflict with other rights such as research, religious or educational rights,\" Greens deputy Ulrike Hoefken said in a statement. \"Now it is part of the constitution it is given a fairer weight.\"
By giving animal rights the same level of constitutional support as already exists for freedom of scientific research, the amendment provides animal rights campaigners who object to laboratory testing of animals with a stronger legal weapon.
Not all observers approved the constitutional change.
\"Of course protecting animals is important. But what about our young people and their rights?\" a spokeswoman for children\'s group Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk said.
The German federal administrative court banned the traditional Muslim slaughter of animals in 1995 as the practice did not seek to lessen animals\' pain before death. Germany\'s Constitutional Court earlier this year overturned the ban, which relaunched debate on the issue.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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