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Last modified: June 30, 2014

Animal Welfare


Legislative Basis for Animal Welfare in the EU


European Community legislation on farm animal welfare dates back to 1974. Animal welfare principles were set out by the Protocol on the Protection and Welfare of Animals annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam (1999) and were restated in Art 13 of The Treaty of Lisbon (2009).   The Protocol recognizes that animals are sentient beings and stipulates that: “In formulating and implementing the Union’s agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”  When Member States fail to apply Community rules, the Commission may consider opening an infringement procedure under Article 226 of the Treaty.


EU Strategy for Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012 – 2015


On January 19, 2012, the European Commission published its Communication on its EU Animal Welfare Strategy for 2012 – 2015, which is based on a consultancy report Evaluation of the EU policy on Animal Welfare from December 2010.  This strategy is in response to a European Parliament Evaluation Report of the EU Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010. The focus of this new multi-year policy strategy includes:


  • Animal welfare for pets, especially cats and dogs;
  • Animal welfare for farmed species for which no legislation exists like dairy cows, fish, rabbits, turkeys, other;
  • Better implementation of existing legislation through enhanced monitoring and enforcement at member state level; and,
  • Further development of a common understanding of animal welfare issues at the international level.


EU Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010


On January 23, 2006, the European Commission adopted the Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals.  This 5-year Action Plan provided initiatives in 5 broad areas of animal welfare for 2006-2010:


  • Upgrading minimum standards for animal protection and welfare;
  • Giving high priority to promoting policy-oriented research and the application of the “3Rs” principle (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of the use of animals in experiments) to animal testing;
  • Introducing standardized animal welfare indicators;
  • Ensuring that animal handlers and the general public are more involved and informed on animal welfare issues; and,
  • Supporting and initiating further international initiatives to raise awareness of, and create greater consensus on, animal welfare.


A detailed work plan for executing the objectives of the 2006-2010 Action Plan was included in the Commission’s Communication to the European Parliament and the Council.


Animal Welfare Labeling


On October 28, 2009, the European Commission published its long awaited report outlining a series of policy options for animal welfare labeling.  The report also considers the possible establishment of a “European Network of Reference Centers for the Protection and Welfare of Animals” (ENRC).  The ENRC would provide technical support for the development and implementation of a variety of animal welfare policies including labeling and certification.  The stated objective of both initiatives is not to raise animal welfare standards as such but to increase consumer understanding of animal welfare and provide an incentive to producers to increase the welfare of animals.  The Commission report does not endorse any of the animal welfare labeling options but identifies legislative and non-legislative options which are considered to be the most feasible at this stage.  The finding presented in the report will now form the basis for an in-depth debate between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.  For detailed information on the Commission report see: Animal Welfare Labeling -European Commission Report (GAIN report E49084 – November 19, 2009)


EU-Funded Research on Animal Welfare


The EU has been funding many research projects in the animal welfare domain for the past two decades and continues to do so. Major projects were the “Welfare Quality” project about the integration of animal welfare in the food quality chain and “Code-EFABAR”, which developed a ‘Code of Good Practice for Farm Animal Breeding and Reproduction Organizations.’  The “Welfare Quality” project developed European standards for on-farm welfare assessment and product information systems for the 3 main species and their products: cattle (beef and dairy), pigs, and poultry (broiler chickens and laying hens). The “Code-EFABAR” addresses issues of food safety and public health, product quality, genetic diversity, efficiency, environmental impact, animal health, animal welfare, and breeding and reproduction technologies.


Animal Welfare Conferences


The European Commision is regularly sponsoring conferences on different aspects of animal welfare.  The agenda, program, as well as presentations from past conferences can be found on the Animals – Events page on the DGSanco website.