Monday, April 21, 2014

French Change Civil Code to Recognize Animal Feelings—Almost

The ABA Journal online reported Pets in France get legal status as ‘living beings capable of feelings’ (April 18, 2014). What an interesting development! I decided to track down the actual law.

painting of 4 dogs looking at table with food "Lively Anticipations"

The ABA Journal linked to the International Business Times, the Telegraph, Mail Online, and RFI. All had essentially the same story, illustrated with cute pictures and sometimes accented with puns (e.g., "Ruff Justice" in the Mail). None of them cited the article of the Civil Code that was amended or added.

So I went to the Code Civil on LegiFrance. It tells me that the last modification was March 21, 2014 (well before the news stories). It also offers an option to browse or search the code that will come into force July 1. I don't know a lot of French, but I do remember that the word for animal is "animal" (plural "animaux"). Searching I found 18 sections using one of those words, but none of them seemed close to what the news stories described.

I looked at recent legislation on the websites of the two houses of parliament, the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and the Senate (Sénat). I checked chronological lists of recent laws, focusing on the last few weeks. Still no success. I searched for more news stories, hoping for a citation or more detail. At last I found this critical information:
Lawmakers on the National Assembly legal committee voted late on Tuesday to alter France’s 210-year-old civil code to reflect a change in animals’ status from “personal property” to that of a “sentient living being".

While the Socialist-sponsored bill that contains the change must still be passed by the full Assembly and Senate, the vote was hailed by animal rights activists as an important step forward.
Joshua Melvin, Pets to No Longer Be Seen as Just “Chairs” in France, The Local, April 16, 2014.

I didn't see anything about this bill on the committee's website. (It could be there but not accessible to my elementary French.)

 Lessons learned:
  • You can't always believe news reports of foreign law. (Would the ABA Journal have confused a House committee report with an enacted law?)
  • Even a little knowledge of a foreign language can help you. (If I had found a new law with "animal" or "animaux" I would have needed someone to help translate the whole thing.)
  • Look for metadata like dates. "Version à venir au 1 juillet 2014" certainly seems to be "version that will come into force on 1 July 2014."
Graphic credit. Image taken from: Edith Nesbit, Our Friends and all about them, p. 13 (1893). Available in the British Library's Photostream on Flickr.


F. Rogier said...

Can you possibly find out from your research - and share with us please - when the matter will be put to a vote in the full assembly/senate? I would appreciate this because my dog and I are going before an appeal judge very soon.... it's a life or death matter. Thanks!

PS my blog is below - it will give you some idea, but I haven't posted anything new for some time.

F. Rogier said...

PPS please email me if you do find out anything! Thanks again.