Senate grants constitutional protection to animals
A significant majority in the Senate voted on Friday to include animal welfare in the Belgian constitution, which could impact future legislation and court decisions. However, the Chamber must still vote for it to become law.
"The Federal State, the Communities and the Regions shall, in the exercise of their respective powers, endeavour to protect and care for animals as sentient beings," reads the current wording of Article 7bis. This amendment resulted from an initiative by the socialist parties Vooruit and PS and the greens of Ecolo-Groen, who tabled the proposal.
"All future legislation must be tested against this constitutional protection for animals"
By enshrining animal welfare in the constitution, the proponents aim to combat the abuse and exploitation of animals. In a press release, the greens said this was a "first important step", and more action is needed. "All future legislation must be tested against this constitutional protection for animals," said senator and parliamentary group leader Fourat Ben Chikha.
Judges will also have to take these rights into account in their rulings. Severe cases of animal abuse will no longer go unpunished.
The proposed constitutional amendment now goes to the Chamber of Deputies. If it is approved before next year's elections, animal welfare will be officially enshrined in the constitution. Belgium is not the first country to do so. Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland have done so for some time.
© BELGA PHOTO MAXIME ASSELBERGHS