Future welfare policy and law

Author Prof Donald M Broom


Donald M. Broom, Emeritus Professor of Animal Welfare at Cambridge University, was asked by the European Parliament to write a Study on “Animal Welfare in the European Union”. The recently published 75 page document, summarised below, is now available on the internet HERE.

Some of the many EU Directives and Regulations relevant to animal welfare are listed and the role of scientific information in their formation is explained. Most of the legislation concerns animals that are often the subject of trade. The welfare of hundreds of millions of animals has improved as a result of EU policies and legislation. EU citizens are becoming increasingly concerned that all kinds of production systems and other activities should be sustainable. Animal welfare is an important aspect of sustainability, and also of product quality, and may result in consumers refusing to buy products.

The terms welfare, stress, needs, humane and euthanasia are defined and some of the ways in which they are used imprecisely in EU documents and elsewhere are described. Animal health is principally of importance because it is a key part of animal welfare. It can also have economic and human disease consequences. The terms health and welfare have exactly the same meaning for humans and for other animal species, hence the current interest in ‘one health’ and ‘one welfare’. When the welfare of individuals is poor, there is increased susceptibility to disease, hence improving welfare generally reduces disease. Preventing anti-microbial resistance is good for animal welfare and improved welfare can reduce the need for use of anti-microbial products. Those with medical, veterinary or other biological backgrounds benefit from exchanging information, in particular because of the similarities in disease and in other causes of poor welfare in humans and other species. Care for people and care for animals used by people is generally better if all are considered as individuals.

The EU policy of producing welfare legislation for more and more of the widely-kept animals has slowed down in recent years. The existing laws are generally good but EU citizens find it unacceptable that 9 of the 12 most widely-kept animal species in the EU are not protected by EU law. EFSA reports and opinions, specific to these animals, could be used in formulating legislation. The gaps in EU legislation on animal protection could be remedied by a general animal welfare law, somewhat like the general animal health law. This would simplify legislation but, in addition or as subsections, the substantial gaps in coverage of species in EU law should be remedied by specific laws. Effective enforcement of laws on animal welfare is desirable but is not a substitute for completeness of coverage of the law.

Animal Welfare in the European Union” is available for download here:

Broom, D.M. 2017. Animal Welfare in the European Union. Brussels: European Parliament Policy Department, Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs, pp 75. ISBN 978-92-846-0543-9 doi: 10-2861/891355.