Thursday, September 04, 2008

A kinder, gentler Switzerland for goldfish

More than a couple of reporters and bloggers have been amused these past few days by the news that the Swiss government has enacted new legislation intended to improve the lives of both domesticated and wild animals. What's elicited a titter or three is that it's now illegal to flush a live conscious goldfish down a toilet in Switzerland. I'm all for saving a fish the trauma of being flushed into someone's local sewage treatment plant, but have to wonder how the heck anyone would enforce something like that. I have this image of angry Swiss children morphing into Orwell's "The Spies" or "Youth League", ratting their parents out.

In theory, many of the new changes are the kinds of things I'd love to see implemented in North America, as well. For instance, the lot of fish other than goldfish may be improved, since the cruel and common angling practice of catching and releasing fish is now illegal in Switzerland, as is using live fish as bait.

Changes affecting animals kept as "pets" include that budgies and hamsters may no longer be kept as individuals in captivity, but must be provided with companionship. The tail and ear cropping of dogs will no longer be allowed, and people who adopt them will be required to take training classes designed to lower the occurrence of biting mishaps.

In zoos, social creatures such as lamas, alpacas and yaks will need to be provided with companionship, as well. Pragmatically, it will be somewhat interesting to see how some of these things will actually be enforced. The very fact that these changes in legislation have been enacted and announced, however, reflects the sort of change in mindset that's promising.

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