Updated: Mar 18, 2020
New Zealand is one of few nations that actually recognizes that animals are sentient. This means that New Zealand realizes animals have feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Dogs can feel excitement and come to love and trust their owners. Cats can be anxious and fearful if they are left alone. Circus animals can feel pain and wish they were free. To see animal sentience in action watch this video of a dying chimpanzee recognizing an old friend.
The New Zealand animal sentience law prevents people from treating their animals like objects. This law prevents many experiments on animals, and requires to limit harm to wild animals or game animals.
Other nations and cities also are beginning to pass similar laws.In 2018 the Brussels Parliament unanimously passed an animal sentience law declaring that animals are
“a living being endowed with sensitivity, interests of its own and dignity, that benefits from special protection.”
These laws come a long ways from the days when courts refused to recognize the rights of animals. For example, an article in The New Republic, tells the story of New York attorney Hank Holzer who tried unsuccessfully to protect animals rights in 1973. According to the article:
"Holzer sought to stop religious ritual slaughter (which is allowed under the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958) and several years later, the abysmal condition of animals in New York City’s zoos. He lost both cases, but managed to draw public awareness—becoming,...the first animal rights lawyer in the United States."
Now, with nations like New Zealand leading the way, animals rights lawyers have new tools to help them protect suffering animals.