Belgium includes animal welfare in constitution

Belgium has amended Article 7 bis of its Constitution by inserting the protection of the welfare of animals as sentient beings

Belgium has made a significant stride in securing the protection of animal welfare by incorporating it into its Constitution. This amendment, passed by the Belgian federal parliament with broad consensus, mandates the safeguarding of animals as sentient beings capable of experiencing pain and suffering.

The modification adds to Article 7 bis of the Constitution the phrase:

“In the exercise of their respective competences, the federal state, the communities, and the regions ensure the protection and welfare of animals as sentient beings.”

This move by Belgium follows the example of other European countries such as Germany, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Italy, and Austria, which have already introduced constitutional provisions for animal protection. It marks an important signal of the growing recognition of the importance of animal welfare and sensitivity towards animals in contemporary society.

Not without controversy

However, the amendment has not been without its controversies. Some political parties expressed reluctance, fearing it could lead to excessive restrictions, such as a ban on consuming meat or killing insects, or even impose limitations on hunters and farmers.

There has also been resistance from the farming community, concerned about potential implications for the sector such as the possibility that, in the event of damage caused by wild animals to agricultural crops, the safety of the animals might be prioritized over the protection of economic activities.

On the other hand, environmentalists have welcomed this move, describing it as a historic step in terms of protecting animals, their needs and rights, and promoting more respectful behavior towards them.

The inclusion of animal welfare in the Belgian Constitution is just the latest development in an ongoing debate on the treatment of animals in the country. In 2020, Belgium amended its civil code to recognize animals as “sentient beings” rather than objects, marking a significant shift in how the law views and protects animals.

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