In a historic vote, the Brussels Parliament has unanimously backed a draft ordinance which recognizes animals as sentient beings.
The vote means that animals will no longer carry the legal status of “object,” in the category of property and immobile goods. Instead, they will be classed as a specific group in society and afforded a more sophisticated degree of legal protection. When judging violations of animal protection regulations, courts must take into account that animals are capable of experiencing emotions and pain.
According to Debaets, only the southern region of Wallonia offers similar legal protection in the country. However, the Senate is looking into a constitutional amendment which would compel the Federal State and its bodies to enforce animal sentience protections.
“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 in a statement for Livekindly.
Debaets also praised other countries for their progressive animal rights legislation, saying, “We also learned from countries like France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, which are very advanced in this regard.”
Hopeful that Brussels’ vote will be a significant step forward for animal rights, the politician added, “The ultimate aim is for animals to benefit finally from the legal status that corresponds to their biological nature.”