On 21st January 2023, thousands of people participated in a protest in the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, to pressure the Constitutional Court which is now debating if the mistreatment of companion animals should no longer be classed as a crime. Three days earlier, Portugal’s public prosecutors had asked this court to declare unconstitutional a law that criminalises with a fine or jail time those who mistreat their companion animals, because the court has already made decisions that pointed to the alleged unconstitutionality of the legislation. For instance, a dog guardian who threw his puppies into a rubbish bin was initially convicted but later acquitted. Two more cases were also reversed in the courts.
Placards with slogans such as “Animals deserve respect”, “Real men do not mistreat animals” or “And you, don’t you have blood on your hands?” could be seen among the protestors, who called for the current law continue. The demonstration was organised by the Animal Intervention and Rescue (IRA) group. Tomas Pires, IRA President, told fellow protesters it was in everyone’s hands to protect animals. He said to Sico Noticias, “I refuse to have to explain to my daughter why in Portugal it is not possible to prevent an animal from being mistreated.” Filipe Vicente, one of the demonstrators who lives with a cat, told to Reuters, “I think this is one of the main signs of a civilisation that claims to be developed but that in reality isn’t.”.
Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said in a statement that a law punishing those who mistreat animals was an “indisputable requirement”. Inês Sousa Real, the leader of the PAN political party, participated in the demonstration, and she asked the Socialist Party to act in the fight against animal abuse.