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LCA Blog

Blog for Last Chance for Animals, an international non-profit dedicated to ending animal cruelty and exploitation.

France Finally Admits that Animals are ‘Sentient Beings’

Pet-lovers of France are banding together and demanding positive changes in animal rights law. And thanks to their efforts, the legal status of all animals nationwide will likely be reclassified to “sentient beings” very shortly. Prior to 2015, an archaic law from several hundred years ago still refers to members of the animal kingdom as “movables.” This essentially gives dogs, cats, and all other living creatures the same rights and privileges as the family coffee table or the proverbial kitchen sink.

Related Article: Animal Cruelty = Human Cruelty 

To put this legal jargon another way, the precious pooches and furry felines are legally considered merely personal property in the eyes of the French government, even though our family pets eat, drink, and snuggle with us on a daily basis. But thanks to an organization called 30 Millions d’Amis (Translation: 30 Million Friends Foundation), this antiquated law is currently under advisement to be completely rewritten.

Advocates of the non-profit group surged to record numbers in recent months. Several noted members of the French scientific community, numerous highly regarded professors, and even a former member of the French Parliament threw their unyielding support behind the bill. It didn’t take long before nearly 700,000 French citizens were demanding a new law. The National Assembly took notice, immediately approving the proposed legislation. And if all goes as expected, the French Senate will soon sign off as well, and animals will officially be considered sentient, living beings.

Animal Rights Groups want even more change

While most activist groups consider this new change in legal stature a considerable positive step forward for the animals of France, a significant portion believes that the new legislation doesn’t go far enough. The newly standardized wording may have awarded animals a proper legal distinction, but many activists believe that the proposed legislation says nothing about the possible exploitation and abuse that animals face every day. And isn’t this the real issue?

Green Party MP Laurence Abeille is offering a more ambitious form of new law. Abeille’s bill will not only award animals the legal status of sentient being, but will also make the harmful actions inflicted against sentient beings illegal, such as cockfighting, bullfighting, and puppy mills. Of course, with every newly proposed change in law comes a surge of unwanted opposition.

Many in the French government are concerned about a possible flood of extra rights being bestowed to the animal kingdom. After all, cats and dogs can’t vote or pay taxes – like cattlemen, farmers, and the lobbyists who work for them do. So why should lawmakers even bother? As with any new change in legislation, money is a big part of the picture. But animal activist groups like the Brigitte Bardot Foundation are not giving up quite yet. Even though the new bill only changes the legal status of animals in France,  it is still concrete progress on which more positive change can be built in the very near future.

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