The French National Assembly have moved toward changing part of the Napoleonic Code and finally recognize that pets are not simply “movable goods” but “living beings capable of feelings.” The new law would allow owners to sue over pain and suffering caused by negligence or wrongful killings. That leads to a rather interesting potential conflict with U.S. law.
Some 700,000 people signed petitions for the new change to offer more recognition and protection for dog, cats, horses and other pets. The change will clearly allow couples to file for shared custody in divorce cases and even leave inheritance to their pets. Critics charge that it will also be used to curtail breeding programs and even meat consumption.
Those predictions are hard to square with the simple language change. However, it is the oft-mentioned right to sue for “pain and suffering” that is most interesting. In the United States, pets remain chattel and their pain and suffering is not actionable. Instead, the pet is valued at their replacement cost – much like the rule under the Napoleonic Code. Damages are secured through the pain and suffering of the owner by being such torts as intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. The references in articles make it appear that the drafters assume that direct damages for pet pain can be actionable but I cannot find any relevant language to that effect. We have a good number of readers from France. Perhaps they can shed some light on that aspect of the new law.
For my part, it is not clear why pets would be recognized as having feelings but not wild animals. If a dog has such feelings, why doesn’t a wolf or fox? In my view, they all do have feelings and deserve greater protections (as we have previously discussed). The question is where to draw the line since we have a desire to protect animals from cruelty yet we raise animals to eat. Even with pets, the enhanced rights raise some interesting questions. For example, if a pet has feelings (which they clearly do), can a court take into account a preference for one owner over another in a divorce case? Children who reach a certain age are given such a preference in a custody fight.
It is also interesting to see language of being “capable of feelings” rather than clearly having feelings. I am not sure if this is just a translation issue since it would suggest that one could litigate the existence of feelings in a given breed or even a given animal.
15 thoughts on ““Living Beings Capable of Feelings”: French National Assembly Move Toward Major Change In Status Of Pets”
Jane Goodall has remarked of the “dark side” of chimpanzee society, and its being rather akin to the “dark side” of human society. That strongly suggests to me that said “dark side” has something to do with some similar properties of human and chimpanzee brain structure as aspects of the creativity of evolutionary biology.
For those (humans?) who harbor any form of an insanely psychotic delusion to the effect that humans are more intelligent (or more moral or more ethical) than paramecia, show me unambiguous evidence that a group of paramecia were ever so viciously unintelligent, immoral, and/or unethical, as to have vaporized another group of paramecia with a more-than-critical-mass of plutonium!
We use what we have available. We know that groups of chimps with attack and kill other groups of chimps in the wild, using clubs that they have picked up as weapons. We know that male lions will kill and eat the offspring of other male lions to preserve the DNA of his line with his female(s).
Since when are humans, based on their overt, destructive conduct, scientifically and accurately classified as other than wild animals?
What else than being wild (untamed) animals would allow some parents of autistic children, or some parents of children with autism, to think (and sometimes state in public), of their children and of autism, “Autism is worse than cancer!”?
Dr. Harris – although I do not agree with their sentiment, I suspect their reasoning is that cancer often can be cured. Autism cannot. I have/had a brother with spina bifida. Born with it, died with it. My mother never handled it well. For some parents it may be the same for autism.
Is it OK for my dog to have an abortion? Late term? Post term?
Darren, Radical vegans harass hunters in Wi. all the time.
They have the Napoleanic Code in a lot of places in the world. Louisisana is one. So is Morocco. They eat dogs in Morocco. Napolean was from Corsica. Hell hath no fury like a dog scorned in Corsica. I forget the name of the town but there some mayor there with first name dog in French.
I wonder how hunting will fare in a few years.
I agree that pets should be protected and the penalty for cruelty to animals should be greater. And I second Justice Holmes statement that corporations are not people.
rafflaw – I am waiting for corporations to claim their right to vote.
The intent of this law is to challenge the right for us to eat animals. Offer a somewhat benign law that many people can abide an then incrementally make it illegal to eat an animal. There are radical vegans out there and they ARE BETTER than us, don’t ya’ know. They know BETTER than us. If you investigate who is spearheading this campaign I bet 5k there are many vegans, the foie gras police. I had never eaten foie gras until it became illegal in some places. Then I ate it in protest.
I think more courts are ignoring the ‘napoleonic’ ideal and realizing that pets are children for some couples. Divorces already contain clauses for shared custody of pets. If the laws were changed, however, it might make a change inn the number of pets shot by police.
I just wish the US government would recognize that human aka people differ from corporations in that the have feelings but are now without rights and that this imbalance needs to be redressed. As to dogs and cats, lets get this human issue resolved first.
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