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Published:February 21st, 2010 23:36 EST
ban

Swiss Plebiscite:Lawyers for Fish?

By Geoff Dean

 I have spent a lot of time (mine and yours, if you bothered to read) taking the Swiss to task for their recent decision to ban construction of new minarets in their country. While I stand by my comments, there are two caveats that must offered (are caveats countable?)

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 First, Switzerland is surely not the only country in the world or in Europe to discriminate against Muslim minorities. France is going forward with burqa-banning legislation having already banned heard-scarves (ostentatiously religion garb) in public schools. Italy has begun a deportation campaign aimed at Muslim minorities. And so on and so on. Switzerland is not alone or even among the worst offenders (not that this is any excuse).

 Secondly, Switzerland is whole lot more that anti-Islamic bigotry. While I may question the minaret decision as a human rights issue, I have no question that Switzerland leads the world in animal rights.

 Antoine Goetschel, the animal rights lawyer for the Zurich canton (the only canton to have such a position at present), handles more than 200 cases a year. In a recent one, he defended the rights of a pike (a fish, not...well....). The pike suffered a cruel fate since it took an angler more than ten minutes to reel in the beast. Not a pleasant way to go, I reckon. Ultimately the pike lost and there are no plans to appeal this case, but nonetheless, anglers were warned to catch fish as humanely as possible. Should they use softer hooks? Is bait a form of "entrapment"? Are nets preferable? Should there be a time limit after which fish must be released? Don`t ask me; talk to Mr. Goetschel.

 The proposal that is now before Switzerland, in the form of a plebiscite, is to expand this office to all the Swiss cantons. While the government opposes the plebiscite as in the words of Economics Minister, Doris Leuthard, "obsolete", since stringent animal protection rules are already on the books in Switzerland, the bill has an even chance of passing in the words of some experts (are there experts on such things? I`d be willing to become one...)

 I don`t if it will pass or if it should but I found it most interesting that Attorney Goetschel made reference to the damage the "minaret ban" had done to the Swiss image of freedom and justice and hoped that this law could start to reverse the trend. It might if people stop laughing long enough. Still, I don`t see giving rights to animals as superseding denying them to citizens (as the Muslims affected by the minaret ban are). If you think that animal rights should come ahead of human ones, (I`ll apologize in advance) I must say "Holy, Mackarel!"