Mexican Senator proposes to grant animals constitutional rights and declare them sentient beings

PRI senator Ángel García Yáñez proposed to include in the Political Constitution the recognition of animals as “sentient beings”, which includes pets such as dogs and cats, with the purpose of giving them rights to avoid animal abuse and protect them from being killed.

A sentient being is one that is aware of what matters to it and what happens to it, since it has sensory and emotional capacities, and can therefore experience pain, anxiety and psychological and physical suffering, and therefore has interests that must be identified and protected.

In his constitutional reform initiative, the senator for Morelos argued that animals should be treated with dignity and, likewise, he proposed to raise to constitutional rank the legal obligation of people and their ethical duty to respect their life.

In several states, animal abuse is already considered a crime. For example, the Constitution of Mexico City states that animals are sentient beings and must be protected, and the local Penal Code punishes people who mistreat non-human species.

Currently, the penalty for animal mistreatment is up to 10 years in prison and 150 days of salary, and the penalties for animal predators would be increased as a result of the constitutional reform.

Ángel García Yáñez stated that despite the fact that there is a worldwide protectionist trend in favor of animals and that we have a legal framework on the matter, Mexico ranks third in animal mistreatment in Latin America, according to data from the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (INEGI).

Hence, in the country 7 out of every 10 domestic animals suffer some type of mistreatment: only in Mexico City, 1,850 complaints were filed for that illicit in 2019; in addition, it is recorded that in the national territory more than 70% of dogs and over 60% of cats are in a street situation.

In the country there is a high degree of violence and an alarming lack of empathy of the population towards animal care and welfare, facts that on many occasions have been evidenced in social networks or in which, even, unscrupulous people deliberately presume animal abuse to “gain followers”.

His proposal to include such recognition and obligation in Article 4 of the Constitution, he clarifies, goes beyond protecting the so-called companion animals, dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, among others, as it also seeks to protect from mistreatment and cruelty the country’s wild species, many of which are in danger of extinction.

“In this sense, I believe that we must continue with the strengthening and construction of a legal scaffolding that allows us to reverse the serious situation of mistreatment and cruelty against animals, and generate a culture of care and welfare,” he concluded.

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