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Animal welfare

With the support and close co-operation of the EU countries, the European Commission has been promoting animal welfare for over 40 years gradually improving the lives of farm animals. An important step in 1998 was Council Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes which gave general rules for the protection of animals of all species kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur or for other farming purposes, including fish, reptiles or amphibians. These rules are based on the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes and they 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

When the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009 it amended the 'Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union' (TFEU) and introduced the recognition that animals are sentient beings. Article 13 of Title II states 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, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the EU countries​ relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage."

National governments may adopt more stringent rules provided they are compatible with the provisions of the Treaty but Community legislation concerning the welfare conditions of farm animals lays down minimum standards.

Brexit

Further information

ECI ‘End the Cage Age’

‘End the Cage Age’ calls on the Commission to propose legislation to prohibit the use of cages for many EU farmed animals

EU Reference Centres for animal welfare

Reference Centres aim at improving the enforcement of the legislation on animal welfare, which is one of the Commission's priorities.

International activities

Through the years, the European Union has developed a solid and science-based legislative model on animal welfare. To promote this approach outside...

Legislative aspects of farm animal welfare

The enforcement of animal welfare legislation falls within the principle of subsidiarity.

Main achievements

With the support and close co-operation of the EU countries, the European Commission has been promoting animal welfare for over 40 years gradually...