The Plenary of the Constitutional Convention set to draft the new constitution in Chile has approved one article on the principles of bioethics that may improve the protection of animals — in particular, those who may be used for animal research, as well as those living in the wild. A reference to the sentience of non-human animals and the rights of Nature in the article are important constitutional milestones. 

The article, approved on 12th April 2022, states the following: “Sciences and technologies, their applications and research processes, must be developed according to the principles of solidarity, cooperation, responsibility and with full respect for human dignity, the sentience of animals, the rights of nature and the other rights established in this Constitution and international human rights treaties ratified by Chile and that are in force.” This article was approved with 110 votes in favour, 31 against and 10 abstentions, reaching the two-thirds of votes needed.

Independent and opposition candidates won a key two-thirds of seats in the Constitutional Convention, which has opened the door to many potentially radical changes from the old constitution dating back to General Pinochet’s military rule.

Ecuador also gave rights to Nature in its new constitution, and this affected a legal case involving a captive monkey which was the first of its kind in the sense of giving rights to an individual animal from rights granted to nature in general. Ecuador’s High Court ruled in early 2022 that a wild woolly monkey called Estrellita possessed distinct legal rights, including to exist, develop her innate instincts and be free from disproportionate cruelty, fear, and distress. She was taken from the wild when she was one month old and kept as a pet for 18 years. As possessing a wild animal is illegal under Ecuadorian law the authorities seized Estrellita in 2019, relocating her to a zoo where she died a few weeks later.