The French MP who pushed through a wide-ranging new animal protection law which came into effect in December has cited the UK’s “more advanced” legislation for animals as inspiration.
Loïc Dombreval, an MP from the Alpes-Maritimes, said he could not say why the UK was more forward-thinking on this subject - but that it is.
“It could be that there is a long tradition of leaders being animal lovers – you only have to think of the Queen’s corgis and her horses – which means animal questions are more to the fore than in France.”
He also suggested the influence of 17th century philosopher Descartes might be behind France’s relatively late start in animal protection.
“Descartes always argued that animals were objects, and not intelligent, sensible beings, and his thoughts, including those relating to animals, have been immensely important in building France’s culture and way of thinking to this day,” he said.
“But as the success of these laws shows, opinion in France is changing, and it is also being reflected in the nation’s politics.”
Only two votes (one in the lower house, and one in the Senate) were cast against the animal protection bill, both by members of the right-wing Les Républicains party.
The bill, which Mr Dombreval began working on as soon as he was elected to parliament in 2017 as a member of President Macron’s La République en Marche movement, did not include hunting, bullfighting, or questions relating to the treatment of livestock in farming.
“I quickly realised that it was impossible at that time to have a reasoned debate in parliament on those subjects. Passions were too strong around them,” he said.
“We would not have been able to progress with the new law now in force if we had not put those subjects to one side.”
However, he added that he hoped the new parliament, due to be elected in 2022, would allow for animal protection laws to be extended into those areas, particularly bullfighting.
“The fact that people are still using steel spears to deliberately wound bulls and then, when it is weakened, kill it with a sword is upsetting.
“It is not acceptable in Paris and I do not see why it should be acceptable anywhere.”
As a vet, he said his professional work has convinced him more and more that animals are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions, and of possessing forms of intelligence. As such, he says they should be protected as much as possible from fear, pain and abuse from humans.
“It is something that I think is now accepted by most people in France, which is a good thing,” he said.
He also hit back at critics who insist parliamentarians should spend their time worrying about people and not animals.
“I have received a great deal of media attention, nationally as well as internationally, from my work in parliament for animals,” he said. “But this does not mean that I, and my team, have not been dealing with a whole range of ordinary parliamentary business, helping people.
“I’ve also been involved in groups looking to see how women can be protected from domestic violence, for example.
“Unfortunately, those ordinary parts of an MP’s work are of less interest to the media.” Now that the animal protection bill has been passed, Mr Dombreval is trying to amend France’s laws which stop people being buried or cremated with ashes from cremated pets in their coffins, or from being buried next to their pets in animal cemeteries. “It is something which people have been contacting me about,” he said.
He was hoping to start preliminary parliamentary moves on the matter in December, which will show if there is support from other members for the idea to progress further, and possibly be made law before the present parliament is dissolved.
What does the new law contain?
The new animal protection law covers the following main points:
- A ban on sales of puppies and kittens in pet shops from 2024, and a ban on showing animals in shop windows
- Regulation of online sales of animals
- A system of certification to accompany the buying of pets, to make sure buyers are aware of their pet’s special needs, and to avoid animals being bought on impulse
- Higher fines and jail terms for people convicted of animal cruelty and abandonment
- An end to the commercial exploitation of wild animals, with a ban in their acquisition or breeding by December 2023, and their presence in circuses by 2028
- A ban on having dolphins or whales for shows or displays in water parks by 2026
- A ban on mink farming and any other form of farming for fur