Antoine F. Goetschel: Legal rights for animals? It's not as crazy as it sounds

How fascinating – filing a lawsuit against the owners of orcas with a view to expanding anti-slavery legislations to non-human vertebrates.

From my personal point of view, I cannot imagine that the creators of the 13th Amendment to Constitution of the United States ever considered that the prohibition on slavery could ever be extended to cover animals in captivity.

But it is not the first time this sort of thing has been tried. The 'why not also them' theory was put to the test in a 1986 case that called for the freedom of German seals. This attempt, and all others as far as I know, was in vain.

But the question remains. Why should it be appropriate to keep animals, be it orcas, or chimpanzees, in captivity? Probably because of the consequences to those who keep dogs and cats, and mice for animal experiments, or cattle in conditions that deprive them of even the most basic of rights. But this is not good enough. Therefore these lawsuits have to be filed when trying to stretch protection for animals.

Better is new legislation passed in Switzerland (and South Korea) where the "dignity of creature" is now protected.

Antoine F. Goetschel is a Zurich-based animal rights lawyer