Why is article 13 title II of the Lisbon treaty so important? What does it say?

How is it possible that even with this article in effect, a European country like Spain was able to legally exclude hunting dogs from legal protection, as is the reality in some of Spain’s autonomous regions.

And what difference can an open letter from an intergroup of European Parliament members make?

In order to understand the legal and political importance of article 13, it is useful to understand the European influence on laws in the EU member states. An EU member state, such as Spain or the Netherlands, has its own government to create national laws. European treaties contain guidelines, which are not directly effective in the participating countries. Instead, the member states are responsible for incorporating the European guidelines into their own national law, and ensure that the EU objectives are applied appropriately on their soil.

According to article 13, Spain is required to adopt into its own laws the fact that animals are sentient beings. There is, however, no process to actually verify whether Spain has complied. It is due to organisations that lobby and campaign to keep animal welfare on the political agenda, that a dialogue with the European Parliament is ongoing.


In addition, article 13 of the Lisbon treaty outlines the space in which EU member states can maneuver if they appeal to the derogation rule of cultural tradition. In other words, article 13 establishes that animals should be treated as sentient beings, but some consideration will be given to tradition – putting animal welfare in a grey area. In this segment, the treaty is ambiguous and lacking hierarchical legal provisions. As a consequence, for years, Spanish hunting organisations have been using the justification of cultural tradition to claim their legal right to hunt with hunting dogs.

Because article 13 is ambiguous and provides grounds for a grey area, critical questions could be posed regarding the extent to which the European Parliament approves that the animal cruelty ingrained in the hunt with dogs, is protected under article 13 of the Lisbon treaty. These are the very questions that GalgoPlatform has asked the European Parliament.

Intergroup response

Thanks the lobbies and the asking of such questions, the Intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals has formulated a written response to these questions on behalf of the European Parliament. This open letter helps to colour in parts of the grey areas, clearing up some of the ambiguity of the derogation rules. Moreover, during the conference in February 2021, Anja Hazekamp, chairperson of the Intergroup, answered explicitly that animal cruelty may never be protected by European guidelines. With this statement she explicitly excludes the use of article 13 to protect the structural suffering of hunting dogs. Due to this statement, hunting organisations and hunting politicians can no longer invoke cultural tradition as a derogation rule.

The official public letter of the European Parliament addressed to Spain is the result of the conference of last February. Important is that the hunt with hunting dogs has been officially designated as a private matter, and both the structural suffering and the exclusion of hunting dogs from legal protection is in direct violation of the European treaty.