From Mark Bekoff -
BERLIN, Germany --Germany has become the first European
nation to vote to guarantee animal rights in its constitution.
A majority of lawmakers in the Bundestag voted on Friday
to add "and animals" to a clause that obliges the state to respect and
protect the dignity of humans.
The main impact of the measure will be to restrict the
use of animals in experiments.
In the end 543 lawmakers in Germany's lower house of
parliament voted in favour of giving animals constitutional rights.
Nineteen voted against it and 15 abstained.
The vote is expected to be approved by the Bundesrat
upper house this summer.
Article 20a of the German Basic Law will then read: "The
state takes responsibility for protecting the natural foundations of
life and animals in the interest of future generations."
The issue had been keenly debated among German
politicians for almost 10 years.
Animals in Germany already are protected through
legislation defining the conditions in which they can be held in
captivity, but activists claimed it did not go far enough to control the
use of animals in research.
With the new measure, the federal constitutional court
will have to weigh animals' rights against other entrenched rights, like
those to conduct research or practice religion. This could translate
bring tighter restrictions on the use of animals for testing cosmetics
or nonprescription drugs.
Consumer Affairs Minister Renate Kunast, a member of the
environmentalist Greens party that has lobbied for many years to bring
animal rights into the constitution, welcomed the change as
groundbreaking, but emphasized it would not diminish human rights.
"People remain the most important," Kunast said.
Conservative parliament members had previously opposed
the constitutional changes, arguing that it could put the interests of
animals before those of humans and be particularly damaging to Germany's
Animal rights activists say they will use the
constitutional changes to try and end to what they say are unduly long
transport routes for animals.
Lawmakers said the government will also look at
targeting more research funding to projects that seek alternatives to
using animals for conducting experiments.
Go on to Missouri
House Okays Ban On Barn Photos
Return to 19 May 2002 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright