There are a multitude of ways in which you can stand up for animals, and Antoine Goetschel, the world’s first state-appointed animal lawyer, is an inspirational figure in the animal rights movement who has spent 25 years working to provide animals with greater legal protection and a voice in the courtroom.
As with most people, Goetschel was not born a vegetarian. It wasn’t until the age of 23, when he was unable to speak for 10 days after an operation on his vocal cords, that Goetschel made an emotional connection between himself and the food on his plate. “I suddenly began to realise what it must be like to be an animal – unable to communicate in a world dominated by humans”, he says.
This epiphany was a game changer, and with the driving passion to be a voice for animals, he went on to forge a career in animal law, setting up the Foundation for the Animal in the Law and, in 2007, taking the position for which he became world renowned, as the official lawyer for animals in the canton of Zurich.
Switzerland, because of a 2008 law recognising the dignity of animals (which Goetschel was instrumental in getting passed), offers the greatest legal protection for animals in the world, with strict requirements for the ownership of companion animals. For example, all prospective dog guardians must first receive a four-hour theory course before taking a dog into their home and then complete a further four hours of training afterwards. For Goetschel, however, this is only the beginning. He is anxious to be more than just a defender of puppies and kittens and has spent a great deal of time working to defend farmed animals.
In an ideal world, of course, an animal’s voice – a bark, whoop, growl or whine – should be sufficient to communicate their feelings of distress, pain or joy. But in a human society that all too often views animals as products rather than sentient beings, people like Goetschel are necessary and admirable figures working to create a world where no animal’s cry goes unheard.
Posted by PETA Asia-Pacific intern Josceline Cluff