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The National Assembly legal committee’s decision to change the long held law of animals being considered as “part of the furniture” is a definite win for animal lovers in France. Instead of animals being considered as having the same rights as immobile object, they would be classified as akin to “sentient human being”. Heavy campaigning by animal rights groups helped garner enough attention for the essential vote to take place. The request to change the law must now pass through the entire National Assembly and the Senate for deliberation.  
What really drew the National Assembly legal committee’s interest to the cause was the submission of an online petition consisting of 678,000 signatures. The signatures included people from a variety of backgrounds, such as, French scientists, academics and a former education minister.   Reha Hutin, who is the head of the animal protection society – 30 Million Friends and responsible for starting the petition, explains that “its ridiculous to see pets as pieces of furniture that can walk by themselves”.  She is pleased with the result as the Parliament had finally recognised “an obvious fact: animals are beings endowed with feelings”.  

Other animal rights groups also expressed their satisfaction with the decision but regard the result as merely symbolic.The reason being that the classification of animals by the civil code in French law is the only component that would be amended if it is approved by the Senate. Under the civil code, animals would be changed from being akin to a ‘chair’ to being categorized as ‘living sentient beings’. No other law would be amended.  As Christophe Marie from the Brigitte Bardot Foundation explains “it does nothing to challenge the exploitation of animals”. Agreeing to change the law would simply standardize the three legal texts – civil, rural and penal – in French law.  

Regardless of whether the change to civil code is symbolic or not, the verdict is an excellent step forward towards protecting animals from cruelty and helping in complex court custody battles. It now comes down to the National Assembly and the Senate to decide whether they agree to the change of the law or not. Fingers crossed!