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Brussels parliament approves better legal protection for animals
The Brussels parliament has unananimously agreed to grant a higher level of protection to animals, by approving a text recognising them as sentient beings and not just objects.
Bianca Debaets, the Brussels secretary of state for animal welfare, said the ordinance sets a new legal basis upon which any future animal rights cases can be judged by courts.
The text says animals are "living beings, endowed with sensitivity, their own interests and dignity, which benefit from special protection". Until now, the legislation in force has classified animals as objects - as an item of property.
"We have been inspired by countries such as France, the Netherlands and New Zealand, which are very advanced in this field," said Debaets. "The ultimate goal is that animals can finally benefit from the legal status they deserve."
At a national level, the Senate is currently working on an amendment to the Belgian constitution which states that "the federal state and federated entities ensure the welfare of animals as sentient beings".
Justice minister Koen Geens has also proposed an amendment to the Belgian civil code, removing animals from the category of property.