Publication:

Animal Scene - 2021-09-01

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TO DEFINE OR NOT TO DEFINE

ADVOCATE

France recognized animal sentience way back in the ‘70s and further regarded animals as “living beings gifted with sentience” in 2015. However, they failed to define the term “sentience.” The European Union also recognized animals as sentient in 2009, and New Zealand and Quebec did the same in 2015. Some countries like Quebec don’t define the term but rather discuss what the law might mean to look at animals not as property but as sentient beings. On the other hand, the state of Oregon in the US defined sentience in 2013 as the capability to experience “pain, stress and fear.” In 2008, Tanzania also provided a definition for animal sentience. Just two years ago, the Australian Capital Territory recognized the “intrinsic value” of animals as sentient beings who can “feel and perceive the world around them.” However, the use and definition of a term in law is largely dependent on context. In Tanzania, this means respecting animals but in the context of their increased productivity as livestock. In Australia, only vertebrates are considered “animals” when sentience is discussed. The Deakin University School of Law in Australia also explains in a 2019 article on their website that animal cruelty may still be allowed “in accordance with a code of practice” in contexts such as the animal industry. According to the American Bar Association, “the context in which sentience is recognized by the state arguably limits its application,” which means that the lack of detail around the term “sentience” in law could still be useful to animal welfare activists.

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