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Animal welfare enshrined in Belgian constitution

09:55 14/05/2024

Animal welfare is now enshrined in the Belgian constitution following the adoption of a proposal to that end in Belgium's federal parliament.

The amendment adopted adds the following words to Article 7 of the Constitution: "In the exercise of their respective powers, the federal state, the communities and the regions shall ensure the protection and welfare of animals as sentient beings."

“This vote is an important victory for better animal protection,” supporter Claire Hugon (Ecolo) said.

“After the Senate, the [lower] House is responding to the call from the 86% of Belgians who want this change to the Belgian constitution.”

Animal welfare association Gaia also issued a celebratory statement welcoming the “historic step forward”, pointing out that Belgium now becomes the sixth EU member state to confer constitutional protection on animals, after Germany, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Italy and Austria.

“Animal welfare is becoming a constitutional value in its own right, joining other fundamental principles,” said Gaia chairman Michel Vandenbosch.

“This recognition reflects a major societal change and highlights the growing importance of animal protection in our country.”

Gaia noted that the inclusion of animal welfare in the highest text in the legal hierarchy not only has symbolic value, but will also have a tangible impact on the protection of animals in Belgium.

Some opponents criticised the absence of any hearings with farmers' representatives. Others expressed fears about the future possibility of banning the consumption of meat or even swatting a fly.

“This madness on the part of the left will affect the supreme standard of our country,” said former justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) in announcing his party’s position against the proposal.

Supporter Kristof Calvo (Groen) was quick to reply that Van Quickenborne’s “indignation is just a poor piece of theatre”.

The text was finally adopted by 70 votes in favour, reaching the special two-thirds majority. This draft revision of the Constitution had already been adopted by the Senate.

Written by Helen Lyons