The Brussels Parliament on Friday unanimously adopted a draft ordinance recognizing the specific status of animals as sentient beings. Under existing laws, an animal is considered an object, included in the category of property and immobile goods. Under the new legislation, it will be categorised as “a living being endowed with sensitivity, interests of its own and dignity, that benefits from special protection”.
Animals will now be recognised as a specific group in society, which will give them a high degree of protection at the legal level, the Brussels State Secretary in charge of Animal Well-Being, Bianca Debaets (Christian Democratic and Flemish, CD&V, party) explained on Friday.
For Mrs Debaets, by adopting the text, Brussels has moved past the stage of symbols. In future, she noted, it will be important to consider animals as living, sentient beings when judging infractions against regulations aimed at protecting their well-being. She also recalled that the available sanctions had recently been beefed up at her request.
According to the State Secretary, only Wallonia has introduced a similar recognition in its legislation. More broadly, at the federal level, the Senate is now studying a Constitutional amendment under which “the Federal State and federated bodies shall ensure the well-being of animals as sentient beings”.
“Further, we are perfectly in line with the spirit of the Federal Government which, through Justice Minister Koen Geens, has proposed a modification of the Civil Code to remove animals from the category of goods and create a new specific category for them,” Debaets said.
“We also learned from countries like France, the Netherlands and New Zealand, which are very advanced in this regard,” she stated after Friday’s vote. “The ultimate aim is for animals to benefit finally from the legal status that corresponds to their biological nature.”