The Italian Constitution now explicitly recognises the need to protect animals
October 22 2022, Alessandro Ricciuti
ALI – Animal Law Italia ETS
In February 2022, the Italian Parliament approved an amendment to the Constitution, with respect to the protection of the environment and animals. Article 9 of the Charter now features a new paragraph, which solemnly declares that «(The State) Protects the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations. State law regulates the methods and forms of animal protection». This result marks a major success for environmental and animal rights groups that had been petitioning for decades for an advancement of the legal protection of the environment and animals, considering that the first 12 articles of the Charter, containing the “fundamental principles”, had been left untouched since 1948.
However, it must be noted that animal protection is separated from the other rights and configured as regulated by the law, instead of being considered as a direct object of protection. This different approach is the result of a political compromise that made possible the approval of the amendment with the inclusion of animals, despite the strong opposition of some political groups representing the interests of hunters and farmers.
In the end, even though an historical goal was reached, the final formulation of the Charter with respect to animal protection was somehow disappointing, not only because it lacked the same extent of the recognition as the protection of the environment, but also because it failed to include animals as sentient beings as specifically requested by animal rights advocates. The objective of including animal sentience remains meaningful, and NGOs have now shifted to campaigning for the inclusion of the wider legal principle of sentience in the civil code, that in adherence to traditional legal categories still treats animals merely as goods, without further consideration of their needs as living, sentient beings.  In fact, were the Parliament to approve this request, this could be considered as the first application of the constitutional principle of State law regulating “the methods and forms of animal protection”.
- Senato della Repubblica La Costituzione, ‘La Costituzione – Principi fondamentali, Articolo 9’
<https://www.senato.it/istituzione/la-costituzione/principi-fondamentali/articolo-9> accessed 15 October 2022
- ilPost, ‘La Lega fa ostruzionismo sulla tutela di ambiente e animali in Costituzione’ <https://www.ilpost.it/2021/04/23/riforma-costituzione-ambiente-diritti-animali-lega-ostruzionismo/ > accessed 15 October 2022
- Paparella, A.., ‘Associazioni animaliste e ambientaliste: “Bene l’inserimento dello sviluppo sostenibile in Costituzione, è importante cogliere questa occasione storica per includere anche gli animali.”’ <https://www.ali.ong/comunicati-stampa/animali-in-costituzione-le-associazioni-scrivono-al-nuovo-governo/> accessed 15 October 2022
- Portoghese, P., ‘Animali nel codice civile: verso una nuova definizione legale?’ <https://www.ali.ong/aggiornamenti/animali-nel-codice-civile-verso-nuova-definizione-legale/> accessed 15 October 2022