By Michael Baggot

SWITZERLAND, April 28, 2008 ( – The nation that liberalized its abortion laws in 2002 is now giving unprecedented protection to animal and plant life.

In an effort to respect the needs of “social species,” the Swiss parliament passed legislation last week that threatens its citizens with punishment for not providing various animals a fit environment in which they can interact and flourish.

Enjoying the most extensive protection under the new laws, dogs proved to be the Swiss parliament’s best friend.  Prospective dog owners will now be required to complete a course in canine treatment that will include both theoretical and practical elements.

Due to concern over recent studies suggesting the pain experienced by fish, anglers are now subjected to a preparatory course on humane fishing.

The new laws will also dictate how farmers treat their livestock and even stipulates the proper treatment of rhinoceroses.

“The aim is not only to ensure treatment of animals appropriate to each species, but also to decrease the risk of attacks by dangerous dogs.  Inappropriate treatment could lead to behavioral disorders,” explained Hans Wyss, head of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office.

In addition to tending to the animal kingdom, the Swiss government has also been busy wrestling with how best to treat the nation’s plants.

The Swiss federal government’s ethics committee on non-human biotechnology has been working to determine what kind of research respects “plant dignity” enough to be eligible for government funding.

“Plant dignity” considerations stem from the 2004 Gene Technology Law’s requirement to take “the dignity of creatures” into account during any research.

Researchers are eagerly awaiting clarity on the notion of “plant dignity”, which will decide whether or not they receive important funding to continue their work.

“At the moment not even authorities who decide on grants know what the ‘dignity of plants’ really means,” committee member Markus Schefer said.

The committee has outlined guidelines to protect plant dignity, but the licitness of many particular practices is yet to be determined.

Most committee members consider interference with a plant’s reproductive functions undignified, making some plant geneticists concerned that the committee could greatly hinder traditionally accepted genetic engineering, such as commercial seedless fruits or the hybridization of roses.

The added protections afforded to plant and animal life stand in sharp contrast to the Swiss government’s recent disregard for the life of the nation’s unborn. In June 2002, the country decided to allow women to abort their children during the first trimester, provided a doctor determines that she is in an ambiguously defined “state of distress.”

See related coverage:

If Only Babies Were Pigeons: A Swiftian Vision

Swiss Vote to Legalize Abortion