If the opinion of the district court of Heilbronn is upheld, it could mean the end of the German animal protection law applying to factory farms. An appeal is now pending with the constitutional tribunal of the state of Baden-Württemberg (1 Vb 72/18).
Jonathan Steinhauser, who filmed conditions inside a factory farm, has raised a constitutional appeal against his conviction for unlawful entry. Above all, his appeal strongly questions the scandalous justification given by the district court of Heilbronn. If this opinion is upheld, there would be no bars to the kind of pain and suffering inflicted upon animals inside factory farms. In its ruling passed on 23 May 2017, the district court of Heilbronn sees itself as enacting the intention of the legislature because »the poor conditions seen in factory farms […] including – as observed among the turkeys – feather-pecking, no access to free-range areas and deformations caused by excessive weight are well-known consequences.« They are, therefore, »socially adequate, at least currently«, and perfectly acceptable in the balance between animal welfare and food production. In the opinion of the court, there are »reasonable grounds« to treat factory farmed animals poorly which is supposedly in compliance with the German animal welfare law.
Mahi Klosterhalfen, President of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, comments: »The animal welfare law is routinely violated in animal agriculture. But we can’t solve this problem by turning factory farming into a welfare-law-free zone. On the contrary, we need to see the law properly enforced.«
In 2015, the animal rights activist Jonathan Steinhauser and two fellow investigators discovered and filmed the horrendous – as confirmed by experts – conditions inside a turkey shed in Baden-Württemberg. He was convicted by the district court of Heilbronn, a ruling subsequently confirmed by the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart.
Leading the constitutional appeal is the Albert Schweitzer Foundation. Together with the Erna Graff Foundation for Animal Welfare, it has supported the animal rights activist for some time now in helping him to have the ruling overturned.
The logical consequence of the ruling imposed by the district court of Heilbronn is that the applicable animal welfare law in relation to factory farming is not applied and veterinary inspection offices will have no means of exerting influence or implementing corrections aimed at protecting animals in factory farms. This renders animal welfare law largely invalid, making it ineffective and purely symbolic. From an animal protection perspective, this is simply unacceptable. It also contradicts the Federal Court of Justice, which ruled back in 1987 that animal welfare law shall also be applied in factory farming (- 2 StR 159/86 -).
You can read the text of the constitutional appeal here (in German).