On 2nd May 2024, the House of Representatives of Belgium adopted the proposed revision of the Constitution, becoming the 6th EU Member State, after Germany, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Italy and Austria to give constitutional protection to non-human animals, considering them sentient beings. 

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.”

This historic vote was achieved with 70 votes in favour, 23 against and 29 abstentions. This constitutional change 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.

The new article enshrines animal welfare as a fundamental value of the Belgian society, will encourage the legislative and executive powers to pass laws aimed at improving animal protection (and also reject those that could undermine it), and will have an impact in legal cases involving animals, whether in criminal or civil matters. It is likely that judges, acknowledging these new values enshrined in the Constitution, will be inclined to give greater importance to the interests of animals.

Michel Vandenbosch, president of the Belgian animal protection and environmental group Gaia, which campaigned for years for this change, said, “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.”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.