The year 2022 seems to have started under the best auspices for animals and animal lovers in Italy. It is recent news, in fact, the amendment of the Constitution with specific reference to the protection of animals and the environment.
After the historic decision to close down fur farms and the allocation of funds for the first public veterinary hospital, another important milestone has been reached. Animal protection is also safeguarded by Italian law.
Amendment of the Constitution to protect the environment
At last, after years of parliamentary debate, the protection of animals, the environment and biodiversity become part of the Constitution. This means that the environment becomes a fundamental principle of the Constitutional Charter. The decision was approved largely unanimously. Achieving a majority meant that the amended text could enter into force without the need for a confirmatory referendum.
New in Articles 9 and 41 of the Constitution
The protection of animals and the environment was enshrined in the amendment of Articles 9 and 41.
Article 9 promotes the development of culture and research and the protection of the landscape. The amended text adds a reference to the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems also in the interests of future generations. The new wording focuses on the concept of sustainability for a better tomorrow and explicitly guarantees the principle of intergenerational solidarity.
Article 41, on the other hand, stipulates that private economic initiative is free, but it may not take place in conflict not only with social utility but also with environmental protection. The amendment places the environment in a new position. It is no longer an ‘object’ to be protected for the sake of human wellbeing, but to be protected as an asset in itself. Ecosystem and animals are to be protected as such and not as a tool or resource of mankind.
Focus on animals
The amendment of the Charter has led to an important recognition for animals. They have always been legally considered “things”. In recent years, they have been recognised as sentient beings capable of feeling emotions, but their status has not substantially changed. With this change, however, animals cease to be treated as objects and become bearers of constitutional rights. The change in the text will make it easier to punish crimes committed against them.
A look abroad
Although the amendment of the constitutional text is an important step towards animal protection and the preservation of biodiversity, Italy is lagging behind other European countries. For years, Finland, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and France have had environmental protection as one of the basic principles of law. However, putting these supreme principles on paper means that every law and state action must be assessed in relation to them, leaving less room for legal principles.
The inclusion of the protection of animals, biodiversity and the environment in the Constitution is a fundamental step aimed at the collective good. Now that these demands have been put down on paper, the commitment to the protection of the ecosystem can only continue with renewed energy.