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The Relationship between Humans and Other Animals in European Animal Welfare Legislation

Paola Sobbrio


Beginning with the Treaty of Amsterdam and then later with the Treaty of Lisbon (TFEU), Europe has more than once formally recognized nonhuman animals as sentient beings. This recognition spurred the creation of regulations that provide for the protection and promotion of animal welfare. However, this protection seems to contain many exceptions, particularly regarding the consideration from which these regulations stemmed: the recognition of animal sentience. In this paper, I argue that the regulations generated by this legislation, far from being aimed at improving the living conditions of nonhuman animals used by the human animals, are actually put in place in order to obtain additional benefits for humans. These benefits include, but are not limited to, the reduction of zoonotic diseases (in the case of nonhuman animals being used for breeding), and the improvement in predictability of animal models (in the case of nonhuman animals being used for experimental purposes). While the rhetoric of these laws seems to endorse the protection and welfare of animals as sentient beings, they actually allow for their enslavement and objectification. In the end, the credibility of Europe’s acknowledgement of animal sentience is greatly hampered by the institutionalization of very cruel practices allowed by animal welfare regulations.


Animal welfare, animal legislation, nonhuman animal, human animal, sentient beings, food, animal welfare legislation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2013-001-sobb

Copyright (©) 2018 Paola Sobbrio – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo

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