Human Exceptionalism

France Animals “Living Beings Gifted Sentience”

France has changed the law regarding pets and domesticated animals. They are no longer “movable property” under the law but “living being gifted sentience.” From the The Speaker story:

Animals are now considered to be “living beings gifted sentience.” In this way, an animal is no longer defined by its market value but its intrinsic value. The Civil Code has been harmonized with Rural Code and Criminal Code on this matter.

FNSEA (the main French farmer’s union) criticized the new legislation, fearing the effects with regards to livestock. But after seeing that animals did not receive a new category, the representatives thought things could be worse. This amendment does not change the situation for farmers significantly because it does not create a special status for animals between the men and goods. Animals thus remain property under the Civil Code.

Of course, this begs the question “gifted” by whom or what.

But to the question. Animals are definitely living beings and they are sentient–which means the ability to sense surroundings or feel, as distinguished from rationalitiy. Indeed, their capacity to suffer is the basis for animal welfare and anti-cruelty laws.

Animal rights activists in France apparently see this as an important step toward “personhood” or moral equality for animals. I suppose it could be as that is their goal.

But in and of itself, the law would seem to give a bit of a higher priority to animal welfare, without attacking human exceptionalism. 

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