Animal welfare

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This issue area is concerned about animal welfare and animal health - two aspects which are of special relevance related to the safety of food and feed.
Protecting and raising the health status and conditions of animals in the Community of Member States is an important objective of the European Union. It is an important issue regarding animals in the chains of food production, but also regarding the trade and import of animals and animals products in accordance with the appropriate health standards and international obligations.
The activities of the European Commission's are furthermore based on the recognition that animals are sentient beings. The general aim is to ensure that animals need not endure avoidable pain or suffering and obliges the owner/keeper of animals to respect minimum welfare requirements. Hence, European regulations reflect the pricinples of the Farm Animal Welfare Council (so called Five Freedoms): 1) freedom from hunger and thirst, 2) freedom from discomfort, 3) freedom from pain, injury and disease, 4) freedom to express normal behavior and 5) freedom from fear and distress. Member States may adopt more stringent standards.
The central goal of the European Commission's food safety policy is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and consumers' interests in relation to food, taking into account diversity, including traditional products, whilst ensuring the effective functioning of the internal market.

This impact area is further specified by the taxonomy terms: Animal Health, Animal Welfare and Food and Feed Safety.

Relevant Policies

The regulatory framework for Community action in this field is set out in the EU Animal Health Strategy for 2007-2013 adopted in September 2007. EU animal health policy covers all animals in the EU kept for food, farming, sport, companionship, entertainment and in zoos. It also covers wild animals and animals used in research where there is a risk of them transmitting disease to other animals or to humans.
The EU has adopted a range control measures on specific animal diseases including Bluetongue, Foot-and-mouth disease and Classical swine fever. Eradication and monitoring programmes co-financed by the EU are also in place for diseases that exist in the EU such as Rabies and Brucellosis. Specific legal frameworks apply for some diseases such as TSE/BSE and Avian Influenza.
For more information on concrete legislative measures, please visit

Legal basis for the Commission to act


Web Resources

DG Health and Consumers:
European Food Safety Authority:



Related Terms

Animal Health

Animal Welfare

Food and Feed Safety