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Germany guarantees animal rights

animal graphic
Animal rights will have to be weighed against researchers' rights  

BERLIN, Germany -- Animal rights has been enshrined in the German Constitution after a vote in the upper house of parliament.

Legislators voted with the necessary two-thirds majority to add the words "and animals" to the constitutional clause obliging the state to respect and protect the dignity of humans.

Germany becomes the first country in the European Union to enshrine animal rights in its constitution.

Germany already recognises animal rights with a raft of legislation covering the conditions they can be held in captivity and in homes.

But campaigners argued the laws did not do enough to prevent the use of animals in research.

In future cases the federal constitutional court will have to weigh an animal's rights against other entrenched rights, like those to conduct research or practice religion.

It could result in tighter restrictions on the use of animals for testing cosmetics or non-prescription drugs.

The constitutional change follows a decade of debate. Until this year, conservatives had argued it could put the interests of animals before those of humans and damage Germany's research industry.

But they changed policy after Germany's highest court allowed Muslim butchers to slaughter animals without first being stunned, according to Islamic law.

Neighbouring Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, passed a similar amendment in 1992, allowing animals to be recognised as beings and not things.


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