Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

France: Animals Granted New Legal Status

(Apr. 25, 2014) The French National Assembly recently adopted a legislative amendment changing the status of animals in the Civil Code. Since the inception of the Civil Code in 1804, the legal status of animals was that of mere objects. (Code civil [Civil Code], art. 528 [as worded from Jan. 25, 1804, to Jan. 7, 1999; wording thereafter did not change this legal status of animals, however], LEGIFRANCE.)

The new text adopted by the National Assembly defines animals as “sentient living beings” (êtres vivants doués de sensibilité). (Amendement No. 59, Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly) website (Apr. 11, 2014).) The text must still be validated by a joint parliamentary commission (Commission mixte paritaire) before becoming law. (Audrey Garric, Pourquoi les animaux sont toujours considérés comme des biens [Why Animals Are Still Considered as Objects], LE MONDE (Apr. 17, 2014).)

This amendment will make the Civil Code consistent with other relevant French codes, such as the Code rural (Rural Code) and the Code pénal (Criminal Code), which already recognize, either explicitly or implicitly, that animals are “sentient living beings.” (Id.) This change enjoys a very high level of public support, as an October 2013 poll showed that 89% of the French agreed with it. (La France pourrait reconnaître aux animaux la qualité d’êtres sensibles [France Could Recognize Animals as Sensitive Beings], LE MONDE (Apr. 16, 2014).)

This change, however, will have very little practical impact and is seen by many as mostly symbolic. (Garric, supra.)