At a glance
Primates are characterized by their large brains, complex social structures, and high capacity for physical and psychological suffering. We humans also belong to the order of primates and are close relatives of over three hundred other primate species, so-called “non-human” primates.
Unfortunately, today’s animal welfare legislation takes little account of the interests of non-human primates. Even the most fundamental interests of primates are not protected and often have to give way to human interests. However, the more we learn about the remarkable characteristics of non-human primates, the more difficult it will be not to guarantee them the aforementioned basic rights. Nevertheless, their extraordinary abilities are regularly their undoing: they are considered particularly attractive for biomedical research or are exhibited for entertainment.
Therefore, we demand the introduction of a limited fundamental right to life and physical and mental integrity for non-human primates on a cantonal constitutional level in the canton of Basel (Switzerland). And soon the Basel electorate will be able to vote on it – which will mark the first time worldwide where people can vote on fundamental rights for non-human animals.
If the initiative is accepted, the canton of Basel-Stadt and the cantonal and communal bodies of the canton are obliged to guarantee non-human primates the right to life and to physical and psychological integrity. The University of Basel, for example, would then only be allowed to carry out experiments on non-human primates in which these basic rights would be respected.
Private parties, such as the zoological garden or pharmaceutical companies, could only be indirectly affected by the new laws. According to the Federal Supreme Court, an indirect third-party effect could be demonstrated by a general improvement in the protection of non-human primates or by the fact that private individuals are subject to stricter rules when dealing with non-human primates. In concrete terms, this could mean that the canton would also have to take into account the fundamental rights of primates when applying the Animal Protection Act to private individuals. In addition, a representative person created by the canton or an independent counsel would be conceivable.
In all these dimensions, the initiative has an important signal effect, because the Basel electorate is voting on fundamental rights for non-human animals for the first time in the world and as such could take on an important pioneering role.