France's National Assembly made a huge leap forward for animal rights on Thursday, when it proposed a measure passed by parliament in April to treat non-human animals as "living beings capable of sensitivity."
But animal welfare campaigners say that the new measure would make it easier for judges to punish animal cruelty. Currently, people caught abusing animals in France face up to two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros - but these often go unenforced. Now, judges will be able to consider the value of animals beyond just as owners' property.
The ruling is a far cry from the country's 200-year-old Napoleonic civil code, which had previously afforded animals the same level of rights as items of "furniture."
French animal advocates are already celebrating. Reha Hutin, head of 30 Million d'Amis told The Telegraph:
"When it was drawn up in 1804, the civil code was the reflection of a society where animals didn't benefit from the same attention as we afford them today. At the time in an essentially rural France, animals were considered from a utilitarian perspective, as an agricultural force."