Rethinking animal welfare
The protection of animals is a constitutional objective and is enshrined in the Basic Law. However, there are weaknesses and abuses both at legal level and in practice. Our aim is to identify the shortcomings that must be addressed and strengthen animals' rights to a life in humane and species-appropriate conditions, free from unnecessary suffering.
More room in the henhouse
There is a considerable need for improvement in the livestock industry. Cages and indoor housing are often too small and are ill-equipped for the species being kept in them, with inadequate light and activities. We want to ban the keeping of livestock under these conditions.
We also want to ban the permanent use of cages and other containers if they restrict animals' freedom to meet their natural needs. This also applies to permanent tethering of livestock and keeping animals in confined spaces.
Slaughtering and castration should be carried out as humanely and cause as little suffering as possible. So we want to ban the payment of per-head bonuses or piece-work wages in slaughterhouses, for working under such time pressure makes it more difficult to take the necessary care during stunning or slaughtering. Castration and other major interventions should only ever be carried out under anaesthetic in future.
Banning animal testing
Rapid progress is being made with the development of alternative methods which can replace animal testing, and yet the number of animals being used for testing continues to rise. In 2000, 1.8 million animals were "used" for this purpose, but by 2007, the figure was 2.4 million. A new approach is urgently required.
We want a general ban on animal testing. Exemptions should apply if they are required to control dangerous diseases and safeguard human health, with sound evidence being presented that no viable alternatives to animal testing are available. Furthermore, testing should only ever be carried out on animals which experience minimal suffering, with a universal ban on testing on primates.
Far more resources must be invested in the research, licensing and use of alternative methods which are often far more reliable than animal testing.
Protecting our pets
Our animal refuges find it almost impossible to cope with the influx of dogs, cats and other pets. There is not enough funding available to care for these animals. The municipalities only pay for lost animals or strays. The care of ownerless animals, on the other hand, is often left to volunteers, or they are abandoned to their fate. And in cases of doubt, an animal is regarded as ownerless.
We want to change this situation and reverse the burden of proof. Animals which are no longer in their original owner's care should be treated as lost or strays. Furthermore, the relevant authorities should no longer leave abandoned or ownerless animals and their progeny to their fate. A place must be found for them, for example in an animal refuge, so that they can be properly cared for.
In order to prevent the uncontrolled reproduction of stray cats, for example, the competent authority may require them to be neutered provided that this is in the interests of animal welfare.
We view the keeping of wild (i.e. undomesticated) species of animal in circuses or other travelling companies very critically. These businesses generally cannot keep the animals in conditions which meet their very complex needs, notably as regards appropriate care and accommodation that is suited to their natural behaviour.
We want to ensure that the only species of animal permitted in circuses are those which can be kept in a species-appropriate manner. A "positive" list of these animals should be drawn up. A ban on the keeping of all other species should be introduced, with transitional periods being established, and the procurement of new animals and breeding by circuses should be prohibited.
Giving animals a powerful voice
Animal welfare must be strengthened at the federal level. We want to address the flaws in the implementation of current legislation which occur at the expense of animal welfare. To that end, we need publicly appointed commissioners with responsibility for animal welfare, as well as animal welfare organisations with adequate powers.
At the federal level, we want to appoint an animal welfare commissioner, with rights to obtain information and inspect files in order to monitor the authorities with responsibility for animal welfare at federal level. S/he should also have powers to lodge formal complaints against violations of the law.
In addition, we want to strengthen the accredited animal welfare organisations' democratic powers and grant them a legal right to bring prosecutions. The introduction of a right to take legal action for these organisations would remove the present power imbalance between animal users and the animals themselves. This would accord with the requirements of Article 20a of the Basic Law and ensure fairness towards animals as the weaker beings.