Animals in the Italian Constitution: finally a step forward

The path to the final approval is still steep.

In the session of 23 March, the Constitutional Affairs Commission of the Italian Senate, called to examine a series of proposals of amendments to the national Constitution, has approved the inclusion of the environment and animals amongst the “fundamental principles”. The proposal will be now brought to the Senate as a whole and then passed to the House of deputies.

The formulation passed by the Commission includes an amendment to Article 9 of the Constitution, which currently includes only a protection of the landscape. The text would be integrated as follows:

The Republic protects the environment and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations; it also protects biodiversity and animals.

Article 41 would also be emended, to make clear that private economic initiatives cannot cause damage “to health and the environment”, furthermore the Parliament would be given the power to “direct and coordinate” any private initiative in order to make it compatible with environmental needs.

Article 117 dictates the division of powers between the national Parliament and the regional assemblies. With the new wording, the national Parliament would have exclusive power to pass new laws over animals, as well as the protection of the environment and ecosystems.

This proposal is the result of a revision of seven proposals on the subject, only two of which contained an explicit reference to animals. In particular, one proposal provided for the recognition of animals as sentient beings, with the additional commitment to promote and guarantee “an existence compatible with their ethological characteristics.

The first approval from the Commission follows the important plead Animal Law Italia has sent to the Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the Minister for the Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani, together with a number of prominent non-profits active in the protection of animals and the environment.

In our open letter, we specifically asked to include animals in the Constitution, as already done in other countries.

Even though the text passed by the Commission does not contain any reference to animals as “sentient beings”, we welcome this first step in the right direction. In fact, this formulation represents a mediation between the different requests raised by the various political parties.

Unfortunately, it is still possible that once the proposal will be discussed in the two branches of the Parliament, could be passed amendments to make it worse, i.e. excluding animals altogether. 

We will continue to closely follow the parliamentary work, informing on the progress of the final approval of this bill.

Photo: galitskay/iStockphoto
Alessandro Ricciuti
Avvocato, attivista, presidente di Animal Law Italia.

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Animals in the Italian Constitution: finally a step forward

The path to the final approval is still steep.

Animals in the Italian Constitution: finally a step forward