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Austria leads the way with new welfare laws
Posted 1 October 2004
The Austrian parliament has passed what it considers to be the toughest animal welfare legislation in the world. From January next year, it will become illegal to keep hens in cages, to tether cattle by ropes or to dock tails.
Wild animals in circus acts or other spectacles will also be outlawed, as will the display of pets in shop windows. Inspectors are to be appointed to carry out random checks to ensure proper implementation of the new laws.
Farming officials have objected on the grounds that it will leave their products unable to compete with cheap imports from countries with weaker legislation, but the Austrian Socialists' spokesperson heralded the passing of the new laws as 'a day of joy' for Austria.
In another historic breakthrough, activist Martin Balluch, President of the Association against Animal Factories, was found not guilty in the Austrian High Court of stealing seven hens from a battery farm. The defendant argued that he had performed an emergency rescue of the hens, which could not have been achieved through informing authorities or by any other means with less damage to the farmer. The video film he had taken at the same time as he 'stole' the hens had shown that the farm in question was breaking the law by stocking too many birds in each cage and failing to clear out dead birds. The farmer himself was prosecuted under the old laws and received a pathetically small fine.
The three High Court judges concluded that although Balluch did break in and did remove 'property', the new Austrian animal protection law underlines that society at large agrees with his action and that he had behaved correctly and with good intentions in liberating the hens.