After The British Library acquired 36 boxes of research materials in 2020 to form the Kim Stallwood Archive, there was still a considerable amount of animal rights stuff in my office. I needed to find a permanent home for it. This included an audiovisual archive, a collection of 200 plus leaflets from the 19th and 20th centuries, posters, artifacts, artwork, publications, a library of more than 3,000 books, and much more. My research led me to discover Tier im Recht in Zurich, Switzerland.
Since 1996, TIR has advocated for strong legal protections for animals. Its mission is to improve legal, ethical, and social human-animal relationships. I discovered from their website that TIR had a library that included at least 20,000 books, essays, and films on animals and the law, ethics, and society. Exciting enough for me. But what I then discovered made me even happier. TIR considers its library as a fundamental and integral resource to its campaigns. In other words, TIR’s library isn’t just a bookcase in the corner of someone’s office where books, randomly shelved on a bookcase, hide in the corner. The TIR library is a unique resource, professionally managed, providing vital intelligence to the organisation’s legal work in animal rights.
In 2019, I had no contact with TIR but hoped someone from the organisation would be present at the Mainstreaming Animal Protection conference in Denmark, organised by the Center for Animal Defence, where I was speaking about making animal rights a mainstream political issue. TIR’s deputy executive director Vanessa Gerritsen and attorney Isabelle Perler were present, and we were introduced to each other.
Vanessa and I began a series of Zoom calls in which we learned about each other’s interest in libraries and our work for animal rights. She kindly introduced me to Moena Zeller, TIR’s librarian. As the conversation developed, it became clear that TIR would be an ideal repository for my collection. What’s more, TIR quickly committed to acquiring it. However, COVID happened, which delayed the dates by some two years of when we would be able to visit each other. Moena spent a couple of days with me in my office to see my collection in November 2021. I spent a week with TIR in Zurich in March. I want to share with you some brief recollections from that visit.
TIR is an impressive organisation. Its library is exceptionally well organised, extensive, and easy to use. The tens of thousands of items are catalogued and searchable on a database, which can be accessed from its website. Further, TIR is committed to improving access. It is working with a government agency to make it possible for its database to be accessible through an online network of professional and scientific libraries throughout Switzerland. Not only does Moena work tirelessly on the library, which she helped to establish, she is also a professionally trained and qualified book and paper conservator. One morning, Moena kindly showed me around her studio and explained her work to me.
Vanessa was keen for me to meet with Vanessa Koch, who also works some of her time in the library. She also collects materials related to animals and brought some of them to show me. The photo shows just a few items from her very extensive, unusual, and extraordinary collection. This was also my first opportunity to meet Gieri Bolliger, TIR’s executive director, an attorney-at-law, who has been working for TIR since 2000, taking over its management in 2007.
Vanessa also kindly arranged for Charlotte Blattner to join us for dinner one evening. Charlotte is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Berne, specializing in climate law, animal law, and environmental law. She is the author of Protecting Animals Within and Across Borders (OUP; 2019) and co-editor of Animal Labour: A New Frontier of Interspecies Justice? (OUP; 2018) with Will Kymlicka and Kendra Coulter. We had a great time discussing tactics and strategies related to animal law and animal rights. Stay tuned for an announcement from the Culture & Animals Foundation involving Charlotte.
Many thanks to Vanessa Gerritsen who very kindly arranged my visit, including a busy five days of meetings with many of TIR’s staff. I was impressed with everyone I met and their work. For example, TIR publishes an annual review of the country’s animal welfare law enforcement. I learnt that this report is used by local governments to evaluate their effectiveness in upholding legislation and evaluating its enforcement. Some use TIR’s report internally to argue for an increase in budgets to do a more effective job protecting animals. Wouldn’t it be great if every country had an animal rights organisation that conducted such an audit?
Please visit TIR’s website to learn more about this outstanding organisation.
I returned home feeling confident that I had made the right decision for my animal rights collection to be incorporated into TIR’s library. I will post more in the coming months about how we will be making this happen.