vgt.at Association against
Animal Factories
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Hundrets of activists on a vigil support animal rights

Animal ombudsmen

Legal situation now

  • §41 (1) TSG states: Each province has to appoint an animal ombudsman.
  • §41 (3) TSG states: The animal ombudsman represents the interests of animal protection.
  • §41 (4) TSG states: The animal ombudsman has legal standing in all cases concerning the animal law. He or she has the right to see all legal documents of cases concerning the animal law and the right to get all relevant information. He or she must be supported by all government bodies in doing his or her duty.

VGT campaign for animal ombudsmen

The primary shortcoming of animal law was always its execution. Again and again investigations showed that animal law was ignored by official inspectors and that reports to the authorities were either not followed up or the animal abusers were pre-warned. Therefore, one of the most basic demands of the animal rights movement in Austria always was to have some person or institution take up cases on behalf of animal victims.

In 1996, the movement forced a public referendum, which was supported by 14 % of the electorate. For such a referendum, those people supporting the demands have to go on their own accord to their magistrates and officially sign the referendum sheet. That 14 % of the electorate (i.e. 460,000 people) actually did this, was hailed as a big success.

One of the three demands of the referendum was that an animal ombudsman scheme should be introduced. In Austria there is already an institution called the people's ombudsman, which takes up cases for people against authorities and which is considered very helpful. The new animal ombudsman institution was formed in a similar way.

While much of the original problem of animal abusers not being held accountable still persists, there have been some successes and the scheme itself is increasingly becoming more valuable. The utility of an animal ombudsman stands and falls with the person holding this position. Somebody not interested in taking up cases will obviously not do so. He or she cannot be forced.

In principle, however, the idea to have an ombudsman for non-human animals is revolutionary. What distinguishes humans from other animals in the law on the most basic level is that the former are considered persons, the latter things. And as a thing, a non-human animal can not have legal standing or be represented in court. The animal ombudsman is now able to represent the interest of society in animal protection in court, and in this way take the side of the animal victims. He or she can appeal against animal abusers being found not guilty, he or she can force authorities to act on behalf of non-human animals and can at least collate all information on animal law being applied, in this way uncovering shortcomings of the law.

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