The issue of animal rights today is unique in that the interests of the animals are shown to coincide with the opinion of the majority of the population, while politicians are taking very little action on the subject.
ROMAIN ESPINOSA: Animal rights appear to be the poor relation in the political debate. While 95% of French people say they are sensitive to the notion of animal welfare and believe that animals have rights, politicians are taking very little action on the subject. During the previous five-year political term, a law against animal abuse passed by majority MPs barely managed to see the light of day. In the end, it had a relatively limited scope, leaving aside subjects usually put forward by animal NGOs (bullfighting, hunting, farming, animal experimentation). Cédric Villani’s bill in 2020 took up the proposals of the citizens’ initiative Referendum for Animals. It was quickly rejected by a presidential majority determined not to give in to the political opposition and not to touch the issues of hunting and livestock farming.
More than ever, animal rights today demonstrates a growing democratic deficit. Politicians in government are rejecting the developments demanded by public opinion. This democratic deficit can be observed in many areas. While 85% of French people oppose intensive livestock farming, nothing is being done by the government to limit the size of farms or move away from cage farming. Similarly, while 83% of French people demand the implementation of two hunting-free days per week, along with school vacations, the government refuses to hear anything about it.
Another illustration of this democratic deficit is bullfighting. On November 24, the Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly, lower house of the French parliament) will discuss the bill from MP Aymeric Caron to remove the criminal exception that bullfighting enjoys for acts of cruelty to animals. Although widely supported in public opinion (74%, according to the latest polls) – regardless of age, gender or political engagement – this measure is again being rejected by the government. Several ministers have already spoken out against the ban: Olivier Véran, Gabriel Attal and even Marc Fesneau – Minister of Agriculture, and yet responsible for animal welfare.
In a democratic state, there are of course areas where it is normal and fortunate that the government does not blindly concede to the demands of the majority, particularly with regard to fundamental rights or the protection of minorities. But the issue of animal rights today is unique in that the interests of those primarily concerned – the animals – are shown to coincide with the opinion of the majority of the population, while the State does not recognize any fundamental right for a human being to mistreat an animal. Public opinion is looking for improvement in animal welfare. Meanwhile, the refusal of the majority of politicians to prohibit acts of cruelty calls into question the representativeness of political leaders. SOURCE…