Animals in the Constitution: Belgium is the 6th country to add animals to its Constitution

GAIA hails a historic breakthrough

Brussels, Friday 3 May 2024 - It’s a day to go down in the annals of history: following a favourable vote in the House of Representatives, animals have made their entry into the Constitution. Belgium thus becomes the 4th EU Member State to confer constitutional protection on animals, joining Germany, Slovenia and Luxembourg in this major societal development. GAIA, which has been campaigning for this for eight years, is celebrating the historic victory.


The House of Representatives adopted the proposed revision of the Constitution by a special two-thirds majority, with 70 votes in favour, 23 against and 29 abstentions.

Article 7a of the Constitution now reads as follows: “In the exercise of their respective powers, the Federal State, the Communities and the Regions shall ensure the protection and welfare of animals as sentient beings.”

The inclusion of animals as sentient beings is all the more historic in that it marks the fourth major revision of the Constitution in favour of individual rights, following the introduction of universal suffrage, gender equality and the rights of people with disabilities.

This inclusion of animal welfare in the highest text in the legal hierarchy is not only of symbolic value: it will also have concrete effects on the protection of animals in Belgium.

Firstly, it enshrines animal welfare as a fundamental value of our society. From now on, if a right protected by the Constitution comes into conflict with animal protection, the latter will have greater legal bearing and will have to be taken seriously into account. This recognition could, for example, facilitate the introduction of a ban on slaughter without stunning in Brussels, since freedom of religion and animal welfare are now both covered by the Constitution.

Secondly, this measure will encourage the legislative and executive powers not only to pass laws aimed at improving animal protection, but also to reject those that could undermine it. The adoption of retrograde measures will become more difficult to implement as certain interests (e.g. financial) will now be weighed up against animal welfare.

Finally, it will have an undeniable impact in legal cases involving animals, whether in criminal or civil matters. Indeed, judges, aware of the importance of the values enshrined in the Constitution, will be inclined to give greater importance to the interests of animals. ​

Michel Vandenbosch, president of GAIA, explains : « This is a historic victory for GAIA and all those who defend animals’ interests. Only 30 years ago, such a breakthrough was simply unthinkable. Today, animal welfare is becoming a constitutional value in its own right, joining other fundamental principles. This recognition reflects a major change in society and highlights the growing importance of animal protection in our country. It is this kind of progress that GAIA has been fighting for since it was founded. »

The animal welfare charity, which has been campaigning for this change since 2016, would like to thank its 80,000 members for their unwavering support, as well as all the members of the House of Representatives who supported the provision.


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About GAIA

GAIA – Global Action in the Interest of Animals – unites supporters for animal welfare and animal rights in Belgium since 1992. With over 80.000 affiliated members, GAIA denounces animal cruelty and abuse including thorough investigations, and active and peaceful campaigning.


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