While the French Civil Code considered animals to be “movable property” for 200 years, Parliament voted this Wednesday, Jan. 28 that a change in legal status was in order (even if the Senate rejected the Glavany amendment last week). Animals are now considered to be “living beings gifted sentience.” In this way, an animal is no longer defined by its market value but its intrinsic value. The Civil Code has been harmonized with Rural Code and Criminal Code on this matter.
FNSEA (the main French farmer’s union) criticized the new legislation, fearing the effects with regards to livestock. But after seeing that animals did not receive a new category, the representatives thought things could be worse. This amendment does not change the situation for farmers significantly because it does not create a special status for animals between the men and goods. Animals thus remain property under the Civil Code.
But the animals rights associations still saluted what they considered to be a great victory.
“The main lock popped! This breakthrough creates favorable conditions for the improvement of the animal’s lives,” said Reha Hutin, president of the Foundation 30 Millions d’Amis. Indeed, the group has worked toward this change for more than 10 years. they hope the new amendment will change attitudes and also allow judges to apply the existing law more easily (The Criminal Code allows up to €30,000 in fines and 2 years of imprisonment for any act of animal abuse).
However, it is worth noting that this change only applies to pets or wild animals tamed or held in captivity. The sentience of wild animals, meanwhile, is not recognized.
Concretely, in the short-term future, the law should not change much for our animals, but many still see a positive sign in the consideration of the daily suffering of animals. Even though the road still seems long toward the ban of bullfighting (which has a specific clause in the Act), geese feeding, vivisection and still dairy farms, this new amendment can only cause us to rejoice and to become more aware of the important place occupied animals in our society.
For Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice, “It’s an act that has weight, meaning and consequences.”
Analysis by Esther Hervy
Corroboration: Vier Pfoten