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EU strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-15

The EU has adopted a strategy on animal welfare to address the lack of enforcement of rules in the field, improve the economic value of animal welfare for businesses and increase awareness of the need for high levels of animal welfare.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-15 (COM(2012) 6 final/2 of 15.2.2012 - not published in the Official Journal)


Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises animals as sentient beings and requires that full regard be given to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and enforcing EU policies.

The variety of farming systems, climatic conditions and terrain in its member countries has led to considerable difficulties in agreeing on EU-wide rules on animal welfare and additional difficulties in ensuring their correct and uniform enforcement.

This uneven enforcement, as well as the fact that there are gaps in the legislation, means that animals in the EU are not all treated according to the same standards and farmers in those countries where the rules are more strictly enforced are at a competitive disadvantage.

The EU's animal welfare strategy (2012-15) aims to improve welfare conditions for animals on farms, in zoos and those used for experimentation purposes. It involves a two-fold approach.

Introduction of a comprehensive animal welfare law: subject to the results of an impact assessment, the European Commission is considering introducing a simplified legal framework based on a holistic approach, focusing on actual animal welfare outcomes. It would also emphasise the education and professional standards of all parties concerned (member countries’ authorities, personnel handling animals, livestock producers, retailers, etc.).

Reinforcement of ongoing actions by the Commission: these include:

  • finding ways to improve Member States’ compliance: more inspections; an education strategy to instil a culture of compliance and the development of a European network of reference centres; training of inspectors; exchanges of best practices; scientific guidelines or implementing rules for the various pieces of EU animal welfare legislation;
  • supporting international cooperation: continuing to include animal welfare in international agreements; playing an active role in the multilateral arena, especially in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO);
  • providing consumers and the public with appropriate information: raising awareness among children, young adults and the general public on respect for animals and promoting responsible ownership; informing consumers about EU laws on food-producing animals and ensuring that they are not deceived by misleading animal welfare claims;
  • optimising synergies with the common agricultural policy (CAP): an assessment of how to optimise synergies with the CAP through, for example, cross-compliance, promotional measures, quality policy and organic farming;
  • investigating the welfare of farmed fish: scientific advice and evaluation of fish welfare issues in aquaculture as a basis for possible action.

Last updated: 06.02.2014