Animal welfare and protection: EU laws explained (videos)
The EU has some of world's highest animal welfare standards. Find out how the legislation protects wildlife, pets as well as farm and laboratory animals.
The European Union has advocated animal welfare for more than 40 years and is widely recognised as a global leader, with some of the world’s best animal welfare standards. EU rules have also positively influenced legislation in non-EU countries. They mainly concern farm animals (on the farm, during transport and at slaughter), but also wildlife, laboratory animals and pets.
The Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals
Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty
Farm animals’ welfare
The first EU rules protecting farm animals date back to the 1970s. The 1998 directive for the protection of farmed animals established general standards for the protection of all animals kept for the production of food, wool, skin, fur or other farming purposes – including fish, reptiles and amphibians – and is based on the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes of 1978.
EU rules on animal welfare reflect the so-called five freedoms:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behaviour
- Freedom from fear and distress
EU rules for the protection and welfare of animals during transport were approved in 2004. However, in a resolution adopted on 14 February 2019, Parliament called for better enforcement, sanctions and reduced journey times.
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