A very small Spanish town, Trigeuros del Valle, with a population of 330 human residents have decided that animals should be recognised as “non-human residents“. This is clearly intended to give animals greater rights – excellent news. In fact, one underlying purpose behind the unanimous vote was to ban bullfighting in the town. But of course you don’t have to decide that animals should be described as non-human residents in order to stop the sport of bullfighting. You could just ban it under a local ordinance (law). So there is something deeper and more important behind this vote.
The socialist town mayor Pedro Perez Espinosa is happy with the result and said “Dogs and cats have been living among us for over 1,000 years. The mayor must represent not just the human residents but must also be here for the others”.
There have been some tentative steps at giving animals human rights or near-human rights in America. For instance, not long ago a judge recognised two chimpanzees as “legal persons”.
This is a emerging but slow trend in the West towards giving animals greater rights which they sorely need. There appears to be a gradual awakening to the fact that animals are under-respected, often abused and used and in a world that should be becoming more civilised there is a need to incorporate the rights of animals into changes in the law.
In the Spanish town of Trigeuros del Valle it is unclear, at this stage, what rights they mean to confer upon “non-human residents”. Clearly the title indicates rights that are close to those of humans. At a minimum, I would expect local ordinances to include high quality animal welfare laws and the laws to be efficiently enforced. It should go beyond that, however.
For example, animal shelters would have to be 100% no-kill if you describe your cats and dogs as non-human residents. All the basic rights that human have should, on the face of it, be given to animals where applicable and where it is possible to do so. Obviously many human rights are designed for humans and cannot apply to animals but the right to life and safety from violence are a couple of basics which come to my mind as suitable for both the “human animal” and animals.
I would expect this Spanish town to ensure that their animal welfare laws comply with their overriding desire to declare animals as non-human residents and therefore on a par with humans.
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