4 min read

European Nation Votes To Stop Treating Animals Like 'Furniture'

<p><a class="checked-link" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/oliver_clarke/14358307182/in/photolist-nSN5uo-wbX5g-6hktBd-nFxPG1-5Ly2yE-7iNqfQ-5LtMc8-nvjutg-56geU2-nctUoZ-53Guvc-8tEh6a-7kYDHP-7MXUoB-7XHYL-nKuTjQ-7iH8cz-9WjmKY-buvYX9-5Ly2NL-6wMPqM-8kd6Fb-21UbZG-5JFa8p-9ZEg4C-6CmqtA-8sx2R-7BeNEv-5ouMq4-6g7rLA-6gXcEK-6ULPVX-7iHdBk-6x5s3x-6fJFxH-6g3hVM-6g7sWN-6g7tpQ-mqSV9-6fJFni-dhgp22-7BizcU-86RKFX-5MNR9w-5Ly2TJ-6vLh91-bKAgZ-86RKEk-e4MRxJ-neCm1">Oliver Clarke/Flickr</a></p>

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."

Their fight isn't over yet, though - the new measure doesn't acknowledge whether livestock suffer in factory farms, a provision which had been pushed by Green MPs. Also, the category only extends to domestic animals, not wild animals.

The ruling is reminiscent of other recent moves to afford animal more rights under the law. One notable measure passed in San Francisco last month afforded dolphins and whales the right "to be free of captivity, and to remain unrestricted in their natural environment." In August, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that animals could be treated as legal "victims" in a case, affording them some basic rights to protect them from abuse. Perhaps the most well-known example is the push for non-human "personhood" a movement currently seeking legal rights on behalf of four captive chimps in New York.

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