A very significant law has been approved by French politicians after a massive petition called for change. Until now under French law animals only had the same standing as other personal property and were simply described as “moveable gods”. There are 63 million pets in France who now have increased protection against cruelty thanks to the 700,000 who signed the petition for change.
The original law was passed in 1804 and was clearly outmoded but that hasn’t stopped many people from opposing change. The detractors believe that the new law will somehow cause a change in the French way of life by leading to bans on hunting, fishing and the eating of red meat. They fear that abattoirs will be unable to slaughter animals for fear of being branded in a similar way to murderers. This is clearly a ridiculous over reaction and typical of the scare mongering you get from those who are terrified of change.
The new law will mean that animals are elevated above the status of furniture and are now considered to be “living and feeling beings” rather than “moveable goods”. There are some significant implications to the change in the law as pets can now be fought for during divorce cases and owners will be free to leave their estates to their pets when they die. Owners will also be able to claim compensation for their suffering if their animals are run over by negligent drivers.
It seems crazy to me that a country like France could have had such archaic laws in the 21st century. The changes are clearly sensible and wholly justifiable if somewhat late! Clearly there was a great deal of public support for the new law and I am sure that the detractors will settle down once they realise that workers in the meat industry and anglers are not about to get thrown in jail.
What is Reasonable?
All of this begs the question of how many rights animals should have and what their status should really be. Personally I think it is imperative that all animals are protected from cruelty and that owner’s emotions are considered when someone is negligent but I am not sure about the issue of inheritance.
I love my pets but I wouldn’t dream of leaving my estate to them mainly on the grounds that they don’t need it and wouldn’t appreciate it. Such funds can be put to much better use helping family and friends and failing that the work of a charity. If I was passing a law pertaining to the rights of pets I would allow a bequest up to a certain amount to cover the future care of the animals but beyond that I think any funds should be given to an animal charity not to the pets themselves. Shelters and welfare organisations are always struggling to raise the money they need for the right food and veterinary care.
I guess my cats are out of luck when I go but French pets could end up leading lives of luxury. Not that my cats don’t already
Sally Stacey is a keen wrter and animal lover who pampers her pets but would not leave them the house!