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Swiss canton to vote on giving basic rights to primates

Swiss canton to vote on giving basic rights to primates

The Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt is waiting for the referendum, a result of which will show whether primates should be granted the basic rights, The Local Switzerland reported.

The aim of that unusual initiative is to guarantee the fundamental rights to life and to mental and physical integrity for non-human primates like chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos. Launching its initiative in 2016, Sentience Politics said non-human primates are highly intelligent, can make plans and remember events, and are capable of suffering and feeling empathy. Following such logic, these creatures should have some basic rights.

In canton Basel-Stadt, Sentience Politics fights against discrimination on the basis of species, the think tank has said its proposal could prevent the deaths of hundreds of primates in Basel, where Switzerland’s powerful pharmaceutical industry is based. The organization went on to collect the 3,000 signatures necessary to trigger a referendum in the liberal canton of Basel-Stadt.

The final decision by the cantonal appeals court can now be appealed in the Federal Supreme Court within 30 days.

In its ruling, the appeals court noted that animal protection legislation is a federal matter in Switzerland and that while the Swiss federal constitution has “one-of-a-kind” provisions addressing the dignity of animals, these fall short of guaranteeing animals’ right to life.

The end result is that Basel-Stadt does not have the power to impose stricter animal protection measures on private entities like pharmaceutical companies and zoos than is currently allowed for in the constitution.

But the court said the vote on primate rights could still go ahead because there was nothing to prevent the canton from introducing stronger animal protection rules in its own institutions.

What this means is that if the referendum does go ahead, and it is backed by voters, the canton would only be able to apply it in cantonal institutions like hospitals and universities.

This is despite statements from Sentience Politics that the referendum would apply to zoos and pharmaceutical firms.