The Lisbon Treaty: recognising animal sentience

01 December 2009

"A sentient animal is one for whom feelings matter"
John Webster, Professor Emeritus, University of Bristol

The Lisbon Treaty is good news for farm animals. It brings a greater opportunity to improve the lives of billions of individual animals, each one a sentient being with intrinsic value.

Treaty of Lisbon recognises animal sentience

Back in 1991, Compassion in World Farming submitted a petition to the European Parliament, calling for animals to be recognised as sentient beings, capable of suffering. This was accepted as a 'treaty declaration' which is not legally binding, but nonetheless a significant first step on the road. Then, in 1997 with the Treaty of Amsterdam, it became a Protocol, with legal status. The new Lisbon Treaty, in force from December 1st 2009, includes animal sentience as an Article, meaning that recognition of animal sentience is now in the main body of the Treaty and carries considerably more weight.

Animal sentience in the Lisbon Treaty

"In formulating and implementing the Union's agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage."

Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.
Official Journal of the European Union C 115, 09.05.2008

This Article will give us more strength in our negotiations with governments and policy-makers and in monitoring enforcement of the laws that are already in place. For example, the requirement for 'full regard' to be paid to the welfare requirements of animals is a crucial one, as sadly modern farming systems all too often fall short of this. We can now take this legislation and ensure that it is used as a strong tool for lobbying and secure a better future for farm animals.

From the beginning, our supporters have played an enormous part in making this progress possible and we will be counting on your support in turning this legislation into action.

Compassion in World Farming and animal sentience

Farm animals are sentient beings. This means they can feel pain and suffer; learn from experience; make choices; feel joy, fear or misery; and enjoy the company of others.

1991 - Compassion in World Farming submits a petition to the European Parliament with over 1 million signatures calling for animals to be recognised as sentient beings.

1996 - Joanna Lumley and her piglet friend Babe help Compassion deliver a petition to the Prime Minister to secure the status of animals as sentient beings at the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference on Reform of the Treaty.

1996 - Compassion in World Farming leads a demonstration outside the EU Prime Ministers' conference in Amsterdam, calling for greater recognition of animal sentience in European Law.

That same day the EU Prime Ministers added the Protocol recognising animals as sentient beings to the European Treaty.

December 1st 2009 - The Lisbon Treaty comes into force. The animal sentience Protocol is upgraded to an Article in the Treaty.

Compassion in World Farming will use the increased status of this Article in our campaigns to improve the welfare of billions of farm animals across the European Union.


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