Text: Francesc Ribes
Traduction: Robin Motheral
Photos: Ruth Zapater
#HuelgaDeAnimales (strike for animals). The animals aren’t things.
On October 4th, World Animal Day, the campaign #Huelgadeanimales (strike for animals) took place, promoted by Affinity Foundation. To participate, you just needed to upload a picture of a dog or cat with their back facing the camera and use the hashtag. The objective is to demand, once again, that animals stop being considered “things” according to the law.
Change of the Civil Code
The good news is that this will soon be the case. On April 20th, 2021, Congress passed the Law for the Modification of the Civil Code, the Mortgage Law and Law of Criminal Procedure regarding legal regulations for animals, which was voted for by all groups except Vox, as was expected. The text, presented by the PSOE and Podemos parties proposes to modify various articles of the Civil Code to confirm the principle that “the nature of animals is distinct from the nature of things or goods” and that “animals are live beings with sensibility”. Laying out these two concepts requires a change in the writing of the 26 articles of the Civil code as well as same articles of the Mortgage Law of 1846 and the Law of Criminal Procedure of 2000. This proposal does not differ much from the one presented by the PP party at the end of 2017 which was approved unanimously, although it was never put into practice because its processing was interrupted by the dissolution of the courts in March of 2019.
It’s very likely that the new proposal will reach legal processing. On October 5th, it was voted on by the Justice Commission of Congress (22 votes for and 14 against from PP and Vox) and was sent to the Senate for its approval. This way, the main regulation of civil legislation will be in accordance with the Spanish Penal Code, which recognizes damages against domestic animals (another thing is how they are punished), with the civil codes of the countries around us, especially the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in which Article 13 requires that the States respect the wellbeing of animals as “sentient beings”.
They’re not things
Es pronto todavía para saber el alcance práctico de la descosificación de los animales, se supone que mayor cuando entre en vigor la Ley de Bienestar Animal, cuyo borrador se presentó oficialmente el 6 de octubre y ya se puede consultar aquí. Se espera que en noviembre llegue al Consejo de Ministros y, tras la tramitación gubernamental y parlamentaria, su responsable, Sergio García Torres, director general de Derechos de los Animales, espera que «el 1 de enero de 2023 esté en vigor».
It’s still early to know the practical reach that no longer considering animals as things will have. We imagine it will be greater when the Animal Wellbeing Law becomes effective. Its draft was presented officially on October 6th and you can read it here. We hope that in November it will reach the Council of Ministers and, following government and parliamentary processing, its representative Sergio García Torres, General Director of Animal Rights, hopes “it will become official on January 1st, 2023.”
This will, however, have some immediate effects: for example, animals will not be seized in eviction as they will not be considered personal property. In addition, in the process of separation and divorce, custody will not automatically be granted to the person on the animal’s chip. Instead, their wellbeing will be decided on by a judge who will determine with whom they will live.
This is a small and great leap, but we will continue to fight so that animals stop being things in the broadest sense of the expression.
Precedent of France and Portugal
The change proposed follows the formulas passed by our French and Portuguese neighbors. On February 17th, 2015, the law that modernized the juridical status of animals in the Civil Code became effective. This law recognizes animals as “sentient beings.” According to the 30 Millions d’Amis (30 Million Friends) Foundation, which led the campaign in favor of this law, “this humanist reform puts an end to over 200 years of an archaic vision regarding animals in the Civil Code and takes into account scientific knowledge and the ethics of our society in the 21st century”.
The Portuguese reform was enacted by Law 8/2017, which became effective on May 1st of this year. Its text recognizes the French inspiration and establishes the juridic status of animals as sentient beings, which obligated the modification of part of the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure of our neighbor country.
In both cases, the organizations that promoted such reform highlights that the consideration of animals as sentient beings is the first step in improving their wellbeing and the protection of their rights.
How can you collaborate?
Voluntarios Itinerantes is a group of people who respond to the needs of various animal shelters in Catalonia. We work for animal welfare in shelters and santuaries. In all shelters, the needs are similar, but the priorities are not. In some they need us to walk the dogs and facilitate their socialization; in others they prefer that we clean and tidy up the facilities thoroughly. There are those who turn to us because they need medicine or food, and it is not uncommon for them to call us to build fences or create spaces where animals can live better. We form teams and move to where we are most needed!
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