What are the best places for an animal lover to visit? FYI, we’re not just talking about pet-friendly establishments and sanctuaries; we’re thinking of cities and countries that treat animals with as much respect as they do humans.

If you’re looking to travel to animal-friendly places, get ready to add these to your list!

India

Two Indian states, Uttarakhand and Haryana, declared every animal as a “legal person or entity” – and that includes every avian and aquatic creature. Penned by Justice Rajiv Sharma, the particular law behind this declaration protects animals against poaching, abuse, and human-animal conflict.

Although animal rights were not fully explored, the passage of this law is a big step towards the freedom of many sentient species. The ruling says the residents of the state are guardians of animals, holding them responsible for the latter’s protection. Although the focus was on protecting wildlife, the law also addresses animals in agriculture.

The above law specifies load limits for animals pulling carts and vehicles, and requires humans to equip them with fluorescent reflectors for road safety at night. (Hopefully, the use of animals can be eliminated completely in the future, what with more efficient transportation already available today.) The use of spikes and other sharp implements on farm animals is also banned.

India became the first country to ban the import of foie gras. It has a massive vegetarian market with an increasing interest in a completely plant-based living.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, animals are recognized as sentient beings, according to their amended animal welfare legislation. The law also bans the use of animals for cosmetic testing. The government demands an “assessment of the suitability of using non-sentient or non-living alternatives as subjects instead.”

According to World Animal Protection, New Zealand is a leader in animal welfare, ranking second in the world.

Austria

Austria passed the Austrian Animal Welfare Act in 2004, which states that mankind is responsible for the protection of the life and welfare of animals. They have banned the “keeping” of animals if captivity leads to detrimental effects on their well-being.

Austria has three animal welfare bodies, an animal welfare spokesperson nominated by each political party, and an animal welfare ombudsman elected by each state. The ombudsmen act as independent, non-governmental representatives who speak on behalf of animals.

Switzerland

Although their laws don’t refer to animal sentience explicitly, the concept is recognized by their 2005 Animal Welfare Act, which applies to “vertebrates and invertebrates that may be so designated by the Federal Council (Article 2).”

The Swiss government also gave its support to the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. Education and training for people who handle animals are promoted by the Federal government. The law also states that “the government will collaborate with universities and industry to develop and promote scientific research which reduces, refines and replaces animal use,” referring to animal experimentation.

Top 10 animal-friendly countries

A working group led by World Animal Protection designed the Animal Protection Index, which classifies 50 countries based on their commitment to animal welfare, with “A” being the highest grade. The Philippines is currently ranked 16th with an overall grade of C on this list.

Based on the Animal Protection Index, these are the top 10 nations that are friendly towards animals.

1. Austria
2. New Zealand
3. Switzerland
4. United Kingdom
5. Chile
6. Denmark
7. Germany
8. Netherlands
9. Sweden
10. Australia

Unfortunately, there is still no country offering full protection for animals of all kinds. The passage of animal-welfare laws spell progress, but there is much that needs to be done for all animals to live free and happy lives. However, with more countries finally recognizing the sentience of animals, it’s just a matter of time before they are offered the complete legal protection they deserve.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s December 2019 issue.

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