What Does It Mean That Animals Are Subject to Rights

What Does It Mean That Animals Are Subject to Rights?

Representatives of Cambio Radical presented on Wednesday a project before the Constitutional Court, in order that animals are considered subjects of rights. 

“The project aims to amend two articles of the Constitution. One of them currently establishes that the animals must have special protection by the state and the authorities, but it is not specified how, “explains Juan Carlos Losada, representative to the Chamber of the Liberal party in Bogota. This means that the rights of the animals remain open to interpretation by the Court.

What Does It Mean That Animals Are Subject to Rights

For years, different institutions have worked on the protection of abandoned or abused animals. In fact, at present, the law criminalizes these acts and whoever commits a crime against an animal can go to jail. However, this type of actions is not contemplated within the Constitution. 

If the animals declare themselves subjects of rights in the Magna Carta, as Radical Change claims, “making these rights effective would not depend on the political will of each government, but would be permanent,” says Eduardo Peña, campaign coordinator for Latin America. Animal Defenders International.

The expert explains that giving the category of rights to animals guarantees their protection before the law and justice. In the legislative act states that “the authorities have to develop policies to ensure the protection of animals.” 

“The bill is very ambitious and we applaud it from the organization. Seeks that animals are protected from cruel treatment, degrading acts, unnecessary death, unjustified procedures that can cause pain and anguish. In that sense, there is a call to citizenship and public bodies, especially the judicial, to articulate with existing laws, “says Pena.

What would happen to the bullfights?

In principle, this legislative act would include all animals. That is, not only those who live in protected areas, but also domestic ones, those who make parts of shows such as bullfights or coleo, and even those who are part of scientific research. 

This would be a challenge for the Court, explains Peña, because sentence 666 of 2010 (which discusses bullfights and other shows) did not prohibit animal shows and decreed that there are uses that should be regulated, such as animals used in scientific research, consumption and ancestral traditions. This, adds Peña, is admitted with criteria of animal welfare. 

The project would open a door to other legislation. In this aspect,  says representative Losada, The declaration of animal rights is important because until now the Court has weighed animal rights with human cultural rights. This, for Losada, means “that the cultural rights of a minority of power have been prioritized, that they still believe that the torture of animals is cultural”, referring specifically to bullfighting, corralejas, cockfighting, and coleos.

If this project is approved, the Court would have to adjust the regulations regarding “the alleged cultural shows with animals to a new constitutional reality,” continues Losada. The animals would have the quality of subjects of rights in constitutional rank and not only in legal rank, as it happens today.

“We would expect the court, faced with a new reality, to make determinations in terms of the care, protection, and welfare of the animals in the case of bullfights.

The viability of the project

There are laws and precedents that give legal recourse to citizens for the protection of animals, such as Law 1774 of 2016 that reforms the Civil Code to penalize abuse. Even, recalls Peña, last year the Supreme Court of Justice made a habeas corpus to an Andean bear, to guarantee his right to live in a welfare environment.

In this sense, the aim of Radical Change is “to rise to a constitutional level what was already established in the Civil Code, which declares that animals are sentient beings, subjects of rights,” says Losada. 

However, for the representative “it is very difficult to approve because it is a constitutional reform that requires eight debates. It was settled just this Wednesday, that is, it must have four debates before December. Unfortunately, it already begins with a difficult procedure in Congress because the national government projects are coming and this would be difficult to process. ” 

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