86% Belgians Approve: Animal Sentience Officially Recognized in Constitutional Amendment

May 7, 2024
1 min read
Sheep herding in the Bokrijk open-air museum (Belgium)
Sheep herding in the Bokrijk open-air museum (Belgium). Photo Credit: Trougnouf (Benoit Brummer) [CC BY 4.0 DEED]

Animal welfare has been officially recognized as Belgium Parliament passed the bill Thursday night, with over 86% public support . The animal rights organization GAIA has hailed this move as a ‘historic advancement.’ The GAIA has been campaigning for such a measure for many years. The Belgian bill seeks to add a provision into the constitution. The Federal State, Communities, and Regions would be obliged to “ensure the protection and welfare of animals as sentient beings.”

The amendment to the constitution builds on a change to Belgium’s Civil Code in 2020 which recognizes animals as sentient beings rather than just belongings. The constitutional article will provide clear guidelines about animal welfare. However, Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VId) criticized the bill. He said that lack of consultation with farmers may lead to a ban on meat consumption or swatting flies. He termed it as “madness of the left.” Van Quickenborne’s comments were dismissed by Kristofer Calvin (Grown) as a “piece of theatre.”

The bill’s success was welcomed by many MPs. It was called a “major victory to improve animal protection” by Claire Hugon (Ecolo). She cited strong support revealed in a 2017 Survey by GAIA. The survey found: “86% of Belgians who want this evolution of the Belgian Constitution.” 90% of Belgians consider animals to be sentient beings deserving of respect, according to the same survey. Michel Vandenbosch, president of GAIA, said, “Today, animal welfare becomes a full constitutional value, joining other fundamental principles. This reflects a major societal evolution and highlights the growing importance of animal protection in our country.”

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The adjustment to the constitution will bring more robust protections to animals, he added. The Senate had already approved the text. It needed a special majority of two-thirds during the Parliamentary vote to pass. It was adopted with 70 votes in favor, 23 against, and 29 abstentions. Following Germany, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Italy, and Austria, Belgium becomes the sixth EU Member State to confer constitutional protection on animals.

Minister for Animal Welfare in the Brussels Region, Bernard Clerfayt said that in the future the sentient nature of animals will be respected in all regulations, decrees, laws, and ordinances. He said in a statement on Instagram, “I hope that all governments and parliaments will respect these principles.” A draft animal welfare code has been brought to the Brussels Parliament by him. It is “the most forward-looking in Europe when it comes to really improving animal welfare.” Approval of the draft has been delayed several times, and it will not be adopted before the June elections. 

In short, the bill passed by the Belgian Parliament has conferred the status of sentient being on all the animals. This measure gives protection to animals.

Rahul Somvanshi

Rahul, possessing a profound background in the creative industry, illuminates the unspoken, often confronting revelations and unpleasant subjects, navigating their complexities with a discerning eye. He perpetually questions, explores, and unveils the multifaceted impacts of change and transformation in our global landscape. As an experienced filmmaker and writer, he intricately delves into the realms of sustainability, design, flora and fauna, health, science and technology, mobility, and space, ceaselessly investigating the practical applications and transformative potentials of burgeoning developments.

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