December 19, 2022

Advancing Fundamental Animal Rights in Finland

Animal Law MSL Candidate, Dr. Anna Birgitta Wahlberg, leads work to include fundamental animal rights in the Finland Constitution with support from CALS.

*Pictured: gray wolf cub running in blossom grass in a summer meadow in Finland.

On November 11, 2022, Mai Kivelä, a Member of the Finnish Parliament from the Left Alliance, submitted a bill to create fundamental rights of animals within the Finnish Constitution. She said “[The] wellbeing of animals is virtually always subordinate to the possibilities of humans to use them as commodities. This is the exact reason why we need this amendment to our Constitution.”

The bill’s genesis dates back to 2015, when Dr. Birgitta Wahlberg of Åbo Akademi University, currently one of our Animal Law MSL Candidates, reached out to colleagues to gauge their willingness to cooperate in working together on a draft to include fundamental animal rights in the Finnish Constitution. The response was overwhelmingly supportive, and a collaborative effort was born that produced first draft proposals in 2016 and 2017.

In 2018, on Valentine’s Day, a new nonprofit organization–the Finnish Animal Rights Law Society–was created to carry forward this work. Funding to advance the cause was critical to its future success because the proposal was so novel. Through a long-standing collaboration between the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) and Åbo Akademi University, CALS provided a grant to support this groundbreaking work.

The proposal remained an important project for Dr. Wahlberg as she began her studies in our Animal Law MSL Program in the fall of 2022. Advancing the proposed constitutional amendment became the focus of her projects in two of our courses–Animal Law Legislation and Lobbying and in the Farmed Animal Protection Project. Working with Professor Russ Mead, Dr. Wahlberg’s goal became a reality when, in mid-November, the amendment was introduced as a bill to Parliament.

Dr. Wahlberg (pictured center, front row) recently presenting on her proposal at the World Congress of Constitutional Law in South Africa. Dr. Wahlberg (pictured center, front row) recently presenting on her proposal at the World Congress of Constitutional Law in South Africa.The bill consists of five main sections each having several subsections. The main sections are: Protection of Animals, Safeguarding Fundamental Animal Rights, Fundamental Rights of Wild Animals, Fundamental Rights of Animals Dependent on Human Care, and Prohibition of Animal Breeding. The full proposal, including the subsections and rationale supporting each subsection, can be read in full here.

If passed into law, the bill would make it a constitutional requirement for the legislature and the public authorities to safeguard the substantive fundamental rights of animals. As Professor Pamela Frasch, Brooks McCormick Jr. Scholar of Animal Law and Policy noted: “The innovative efforts of Dr. Wahlberg and her colleagues to enshrine animal rights in the Finnish Constitution are an inspiration to all of us in the field. Their work serves as an example of what can be accomplished through creative collaboration and perseverance and we are delighted to continue our support and partnership.”

CALS is proud to have been an early supporter of this innovative work by Dr. Wahlberg and her colleagues in Finland. Dr. Wahlberg says: “The cooperation and support over the years with colleagues here at CALS have been encouraging and empowering, for which I am eternally grateful.”


The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law advocates and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter. CALS’ Alumni-in-Action from over 20 countries are making a difference for animals around the world. CALS is a nonprofit organization that is funded through donations and grants.