Constitutional Process NATIONAL

New Campaign to Put Animals in The Constitution

SANTIAGO — Oct. 25 is set to be a historic date for Chile, as it votes that day on whether a new constitution will be written. Many campaigns have been launched to put different topics in the public sphere. One, launched Sept. 29, seeks the recognition of animals.

The Fundación Derecho y Defensa Animal (Animal Law and Defense Foundation), created by lawyers, launched the campaign “Animals in the Constitution,” which seeks to secure the protection of animals in a new constitution.

The initiative already has the support of over 50 animal rights groups, 26 academics from different universities, and 8,000 people.

The “Animals in the Constitution” proposal has three major points:

  1. Individuality: that animals are recognized as individuals, and not only as part of the environment or as an end to satisfy a human need.
  2. State’s duty: that the state has a written obligation to protect all “non-human animals.” The campaign asks that the state’s duty is specifically manifested “in the obligation that the public bodies adopt measures to implement this protection principle.”
  3. Sensibility: that constitutional protection be given to all non-human animals who can sense. The signatory organizations think that “animals are living beings endowed with sensitivity and, therefore, possessors of dignity.”

Read more:

“Ley Cholito”: The new law that regulates pet ownership

Current Animal Recognition

Animals are not mentioned in the current constitution. For years now, animal organizations have been trying to raise awareness of the issue, as many argue that animals are not legally protected. However, non-human animals are referred to in other regulations.

The Civil Code mentions animals, but only recognizes them as muebles (“moveables,” i.e., personal property) in Article 567. Apart from that, Law 20.380 on animal protection recognizes animals as “living beings” and as part of the environment.

A third law that refers to animals is Law 21.020, on responsible ownership of pets and company animals. However, the focus there is not on the animals but on the people. This regulation determines the obligations and rights of the owners to “protect animal health and welfare through responsible ownership.”

Rights For Animals?

The organizations promoting the campaign to include animals in the constitution aim for the state to recognize animals as subjects of law.

Attorney Ricardo Quezada told news outlet Meganoticias that the rights recognized in the constitution are based on the protection of human interests; “therefore, the violation of the interests of non-human animals does not find protection in our legal system.”

Juan Pablo Mañalich, director of the Penal Science Department of the Universidad de Chile, participated in a forum called “Conversation: Animals in the Constitution” and said that instead of recognizing the animals’ fundamental rights, the future constitution should enshrine a protection mandate. He added that, based on a constitutional mandate, which would not mean transforming non-human animals into holders of authentic fundamental rights, Chile could continue to reduce the extent to which existing law has treated animals as mere “things or as exploitable resources for human satisfaction.”

Also read:

Stunning Chile: Six animals you will only find in Chile

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