After more than a year of often passionate debate, a bill updating the legal status of animals in France was adopted aligning the 200-year civil code with current rural and penal law that already recognised animals "as living and sentient beings."
When the civil code was drawn up by Napoleon in 1804 animals were considered primarily as working farm beasts, and designated as goods or furniture that could be owned.
France's powerful farm lobby, the FNSEA, along with some politicians had voiced concern that the change in the legislation could undermine the interests of farmers, particular cattle breeders.
The fight to have animals recognised as sentient beings has been led by animal welfare charity "Fondation 30 million Amis" (Foundation of 30 million friends), whose president Reha Hutin argues that France has fallen behind it’s European neighbours and change is needed to stop horrendous acts of cruelty towards animals.
“The civil code, which is the foundation of the law in France considers animals are no different to a chair or a table," Hutin told The Local previously.
"They are seen as just things. But in the EU treaty of Lisbon animals are considered as "sensitive creatures" yet France is saying they are just pieces of furniture that 'can walk by themselves'. You can see how ridiculous it is.
“How can we teach children that a dog is no different to a table?
“France is behind the times here. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland they have changed the law so it says that animals are not just objects.
“We want the minister of justice to bring about a change that the French public want.
“How can the courts in France punish the horrible acts that are carried out against animals if they are considered no more than just furniture?