Animal rights campaigners in France are celebrating this week after the long running campaign to get animals officially recognised as living and sentient beings instead of just pieces of furniture, was passed on Wednesday by parliament.
After more than a year of debate, a bill has been passed updating the legal status of animals in France, and aligning the 200-year civil code with current rural and penal law that already recognised animals “as living and sentient beings.”
The campaign to have animals recognised as sentient beings has been led by the animal welfare charity “Fondation 30 million Amis ” (Foundation of 30 million friends), which has been arguing that France has fallen behind it’s European neighbours and a change of the law was necessary to stop horrendous acts of cruelty towards animals.
The civil code which was drawn up in a totally different era by Napoleon in 1804, when animals were just considered primarily as working farm beasts, equally them to goods or furniture that could be owned.
Some politicians as well as the FNSEA, France’s powerful farm lobby, had opposed such a change in the law as they warned it could undermine the interests of farmers, particular cattle breeders.
The EU treaty of Lisbon states that animals are considered as “sensitive creatures” and in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, they have changed the law saying that animals are not just objects. So France up to now has been well behind, but now has been brought in line with other Member States.