France declares animals as "living beings gifted sentience."
Animals are now considered to be “living beings gifted sentience.”
In this way, an animal is no longer defined by its market value, but its intrinsic value. The Civil Code has been harmonized with Rural Code and Criminal Code on this matter.
It should come as no surprise there would be criticism. FNSEA (the main French farmer’s union) fears the new legislation's effects regarding livestock. "But after seeing that animals did not receive a new category, the representatives thought things could be worse. This amendment does not change the situation for farmers significantly because it does not create a special status for animals between the men and goods. Animals thus remain property under the Civil Code."
So while the new legislation takes a very tiny step in the moral direction animal activists want to see taken to begin properly viewing animals as feeling, thinking, caring, and emotional beings, it falls far short of providing any new, real protection. On the other hand, it is a step forward, and in a world where so many animals suffer egregiously at the hands of humans, we have to be glad sentience in animals has been recognized in France. Prior to this change, animals were literally considered by law no differently than a piece of furniture.