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Swiss Animal Protection dismisses controversial president

Updated at 27 Jan 2024 10:00 pm

At their meeting in Olten on Saturday, the delegates of Swiss Animal Protection (STS) dismissed association president Nicole Ruch. Ruch regrets the decision of the sections, as she announced in the evening. This was preceded by serious internal disputes.

After two years as president, she accepts the delegates' decision, according to a statement from the banker Ruch. She continues to support the organization. The values and commitment to animal welfare should once again be at the forefront. She has already rejected the accusations against her several times.

Critics voted out

Various sections had requested Ruch's immediate dismissal, as the STS announced in the evening after its delegates' meeting, which was held in camera. After "in-depth discussion", this motion met with approval. As a result, Vice President Thierry de Mestral and Board member Stella Pogorzelski resigned with immediate effect.

For the time being, the current Vice President Piero Mazzoleni will take over Ruch's position. A search committee is to evaluate a new person to head the association.

The meeting also voted to remove Martina-Munz (SH), a member of the SP National Council who was suspended from her position as head of the association in September, from the Central Committee. The delegates also dismissed ETH agricultural engineer Michel Roux, who had also been suspended. The other Board members were confirmed

On the Zewo blacklist

The removal of the president was preceded by a long power struggle and internal disputes. A month ago, the certification body for non-profit organizations (Zewo) placed the STS on its blacklist and advised against donations. Zewo criticized the lack of transparency and other points.

Specifically, this concerned expenses and the accumulation of power by Ruch. According to Zewo, there was also a lack of an internal control system, invoice control or approval processes in the real estate sector.

Over the past two years, there have also been internal power struggles and nepotism within the organization, which has around 70 sections nationwide, as Zewo further criticized.

The STS is not one of the non-profit organizations certified by Zewo. According to previous STS statements, the umbrella organization of animal welfare associations wanted to examine certification at a later date.

Decline in donations and membership

At the beginning of January, the Basel section of Tierschutz beider Basel (TBB) announced that it would be proposing the replacement of the central board at the delegates' meeting. The Basel-based association cited the poor light cast on it by criticism of its leadership as the reason. Since October, the TBB has lost 15 to 20 percent of its donations and long-standing members.

The central board of the STS suspended Munz and Roux last September. The two had repeatedly violated the principles of loyalty and collegiality. They had criticized Ruch's management style and made the quarrels public.

Even before their suspension, Munz and Roux filed a criminal complaint against the Board of Directors in April 2023. Among other things, it concerns mismanagement, questionable real estate transactions, misappropriated funds and excessive expense allowances. The public prosecutor's office is investigating.

©Keystone/SDA

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