After all the witnesses had given evidence, yesterday it was time for closing arguments. The appellants’ closing arguments began on Thursday, followed by the Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals’ closing arguments yesterday. The day ended with replies from both sides.
“The point of closing arguments is to argue that the evidence (facts) and the interpretation of legal rules should be understood in a certain way, in order that the court will uphold the claims made by counsel (including claims for costs). Closing arguments are meant to persuade the court to uphold a party’s claims, and convince the court that the facts submitted and the law are correct. The address concludes with a final claim.” (Source: jusinfo.no - translator's own translation)
A summary of the arguments made by the counsel for the NKK, breed clubs and breeders (Anette Fjeld):
This is a strategic matter with political overtones, and both parties agree that it is not something the courts should have to deal with. The parties also agree that many people, including politicians and the public administration, have known about the issues in the case for some time. There is currently extensive political and specialised work underway covering the same kind of issues that have come before the court in this case. In fact, the court is being asked to make an interpretive ruling at a time when an active, democratic process involving a regulation is in progress, yet without the political bodies being party to the legal action. The case must therefore be resolved through the regulatory framework. The court cannot deliver a judgement with regard to the Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals’ claim, and in our opinion the case should be dismissed.
The Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals (NSPA) has failed to present a single piece of evidence that could shed light on the Norwegian population, and it is this dog population that the court must base its decision on.
The NSPA does not require a decision in the lawsuit brought against the Norwegian Kennel Club (NKK) and the breed clubs, which do not have a direct influence on the actual breeding work. Nor do they need to have their claim upheld against the breeders, as long as there is an active process underway to clarify the existing regulations in the public administration. The court should show restraint in trying this case because a judgement would override the public administration and run counter to the draft regulation proposed by the Norwegian Food and Safety Authority. The case must be dismissed.
In conclusion, counsel mentioned what the consequences would be of a judgement in favour of the NSPA. She emphasised that a judgement would not mean a breed ban as it would only be binding on the parties to the case, who are the most organised and serious breeders in their field. Furthermore, a judgement would not prevent unorganised breeding outside the NKK, or imports from abroad.
A judgement would also pave the way for more lawsuits against other breeds of dogs and other species of animals, such as production animals.
A more extensive account of the closing arguments for the NKK, breed clubs and breeders may be found here.
A summary of the arguments made by the counsel for the Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals (Emanuel Feinberg)
People want to have dogs, and dog ownership is a worthy undertaking. People have different preferences when it comes to a dog’s appearance, and this has had serious consequences. The NSPA’s policy supports crossbreeding, although they stress that the NSPA is not responsible for checking whether crossbreeding is feasible or how it should be resolved.
All law is by nature political, and this lawsuit falls within the legal enforcement of rules. The Court of Appeal must decide whether the case falls within the framework of the law or not, irrespective of motivation and other political concerns. The court must decide whether there is a limit beyond which section 25 of the Animal Welfare Act makes it is unlawful to pass on genetic material, and whether passing on the genetic material of the two breeds in question lies beyond this limit. Both breeds are well over the existing threshold.
Counsel summed up the submission of evidence in the case. For all practical purposes, the genetic situation in both the Norwegian and foreign population is identical, with the genetic origins of all dogs being found in the breed’s country of origin. The database Pyramidion has obvious limitations and is unsuitable for showing the incidence of conditions among the population in Norway. If the Norwegian populations differ from other populations, the opposing party must prove this, and they have failed to do so. The court must therefore base its ruling on the research that has been presented to it, despite there being an element of uncertainty.
When it comes to the NSPA’s need for a decision in the case against the various parties, it was stated that the breeders work actively with breeding and disagree that this is illegal. It is therefore necessary to establish that such breeding is in breach of the law. It is also important to establish this with respect to the NKK and the breed clubs as leading agenda setters, something which is also specifically mentioned in section 25 concerning breeding. At the same time, the NSPA included the breeders in the lawsuit in order to reduce their chances of having the case dismissed.
The claim on behalf of the NSPA is submitted as follows:
The NKK and the clubs: Breeding these dogs is in violation of the first, second and third paragraphs of section 25 of the Animal Welfare Act.
The breeders: Breeding these dogs is in violation of the first, second and third paragraph of section 25 of the Animal Welfare Act. The court should find in favour of the breeders with regard to point 2 of the District Court’s judgement.
Judgement within four weeks
The judges thanked everyone involved in the case and said that they expected a judgement would be pronounced within four weeks, which is the time limit required by law.