Working Towards Universal Protection for Animals

by | Mar 22, 2024 | Heartivist Of The Week

No country received the best grade on the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index or the World Animal Protection Index.

“The better we treat the animals, the better this world will be,” Maida Šabeta-Lemajić, Animal Advocate, Lawyer, Campaigner, and Fundraising Manager for the United Nations Convention on Animal Health and Protection (UNCAHP).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed in 1948, recognizing humanitys inalienable rights, and dignifying every person no matter where they were born or under which circumstances. Without a doubt, this became a milestone for humankind. But for other creatures who inhabit the planet, the inalienable recognition of their rights hasnt come yet, and that is the reason for Maida Šabeta-Lemajić to work tirelessly alongside the Global Animal Law GAL Association to give all sentient beings universal protection.

Maida is a longtime animal advocate with a master’s degree in Law from the Sarajevo Law Faculty and the Campaigner and Fundraising Manager for the United Nations Convention on Animal Health and Protection (UNCAHP), a project that aims to make animal protection global by law.

Maida was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she lived up until 2023 when she moved to the Croatian coast. Her father was a civil engineer and her mother was an architect. She has an older brother and animals have always had a place close to her heart.

“I always loved animals,” recalls Maida. “I would even rescue mice when trapped by elders and set them free. But I didn’t have pets because it wasn’t allowed in our house. In general, it’s been 16 years since I started animal advocacy full-time. Sometimes paid and most of the time as a volunteer. To be honest, I don’t even remember who I was before 2008.”

Changing Animal Protection Law in Bosnia

As a young woman – before Maida finished her law degree – she hadn’t been aware of animal cruelty and exploitation. 

“I lived in a bubble thinking that everything was fine with animals, mainly because I lived a cosmopolitan life,” says Maida.

But everything changed for her on the day of her college graduation. Maida was presented with a proposal that would transform her plans for that special night but would also impact the future of every animal in her country forever.

“I discovered animal abuse and exploitation while being a law student,” remembers Maida. “On my graduation night, instead of celebrating with my friends, I was kindly asked to help draft the Bosnian Animal Protection and Welfare law, and since it was urgent, I sent my friends home and spent the whole night working on that. Thanks to that night, Bosnia was the first country in history to completely ban animals in circuses, then one of the first countries in the world that banned animal experiments in cosmetic and chemical production and reduced the use of animals in other cases like medical experiments, etc. We are the fourth country in the world to ban fur farming. Back then I thought we were the last… Without my involvement with the law, our law would mainly protect companion animals: dogs, and cats, no one else in animal protection in my country thought of other animal issues.”

Global Animal Law

Ever since Maida graduated, she’s focused on campaigning for animals at different organizations including, PETA Germany, Fur Free Alliance, and Cruelty Free International. However she found that in the Global Animal Law GAL Association, it was possible to make one of her dreams come true.

“I was contacted by my current colleague from Global Animal Law GAL, Paul Tweddell, one and a half years ago. It was about the United Nations Convention on Animal Health and Protection the GAL drafted and they needed help with funding the entire campaign. Since the beginning of my animal advocacy, I’ve been dreaming of such a project, which means global animal protection by law. The project needs a lot of funds in order to become a reality in the near future, so I accepted in May 2023 to – as a volunteer – start contributing to it.”

Paul Tweddell is an Australian lawyer who is the UNCAHP Project Manager and Operations Manager for Global Animal Law. 

The Global Animal Law GAL Association was founded and is presided over by Dr. h.c. Antoine F. Goetschel, a Swiss Lawyer and International Animal Law and Ethics Consultant who dedicated his career to animal protection through national and international law providing legal protection to humans, animals, and the environment for 40 years. He is the creator of the UNCAHP project and has also written 13 scientific books on animal protection law and welfare and has a doctorate in Law from the University of Zurich with a thesis on animal welfare and basic human rights. He was the – worldwide unique – official Animal Welfare Attorney in Zurich, Switzerland, and got his honorary doctorate from the University of Bern, Switzerland, for his achievements in changing the laws and animal law enforcement in Switzerland and worldwide. The GAL Association, with et al. Peter Singer, Donald Broom, and recently deceased Steven Wise in its patronage, includes more than 120 legal experts globally on animal law, provides one of the leading databases on animal welfare legislation nationwide and globally, and promotes in its GAL Matrix realistic and visionary proposals towards a better world for animals through law, from local to global.

Countries With the Best and Worse Legal Animal Protection

Even though we live in an ever-changing world, the establishment of animal welfare policies and legislation is not something that has evolved fast enough or equally around the world. The Animal Protection Index (API) is a project that ranks 50 countries on this issue aiming to provide useful data for animal advocacy. 

Unfortunately, none of the 50 countries ranked in the API reached the highest grade of animal protection. But the ones that had the highest marks on animal laws were Austria in first place, followed by Denmark in second, Sweden in third, Switzerland in fourth, Netherlands in fifth, and United Kingdom in sixth. 

On the other hand, the countries that were at the bottom of the rank were Morocco at 46, Myanmar at 47, Vietnam at 48, Azerbaijan at 49, and Iran at 50.

But, something worth noticing is that the countries that have the best legislation are not necessarily the ones with less farmed animal cruelty, according to the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI), which measures the number of farmed animals slaughtered for food yearly, the consumption of farmed animals and the social and cultural attitudes towards farmed animals.

Although no country reached the top ranking of the VACI, the countries with the best score were: India in first place, followed by the United Republic of Tanzania in second, Kenya in third, Nigeria in fourth, Sweden in fifth, and Switzerland in sixth. The last places of the study were occupied by: Argentina at 46, Myanmar at 47, The United States at 48, Australia at 49, and Belarus at 50.

The GAL Index legislation foresees 8 categories and sees Switzerland, Germany and Austria upfront, based on its broad parameters, including constitutional and private law and more than 30 countries without animal law legislation at all.

United Nations Convention on Animal Health and Protection

The Global Animal Law GAL Association is currently working towards one of its most ambitious projects for the animals and the planet: the United Nations Convention on Animal Health and Protection (UNCAHP) where animal protection would be established globally by law.

“There is no global protection framework for animals to date. It is, therefore, urgently needed. Through the One Health/One Welfare concept, it is understood that we are all connected living beings, whose health and welfare must be protected,” says Maida. 

In order to give the UNCAHP the impulse it needs, Maida and the Global Animal Law GAL team are planning the production of videos in Australia, Switzerland, and Croatia to reach out to a wide audience and create a network for fundraising for the project.

Every important campaign or project needs awareness raising at the start,” says Maida. “We are going to present animal protection by law in several countries and incorporate the UNCAHP vision and mission into it. We are going to use the series of videos to collect non-material and financial support after the launch, to build the necessary networks with different stakeholders, not only from the animal protection world but also One Health, veterinary, medicine, and even farmers in a holistic way in the future. We also want to influence UN ambassadors at this early stage of the campaign.”

Maida had known about The Pollination Project for several years and decided to reach out to apply for the funds required for the video production, such as transportation, equipment rental, professional recording, editing, and social media promotion. 

“I knew about TPP for years and I used to suggest all young groups to look for seed grants to launch their campaigns and projects with success,” says Maida. “Of course, it was a celebration within the association team when I received the confirmation email. We are very grateful for the funds and excited because this is the first grant we have received for the project and I firmly believe that global animal protection requires global attention.”

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