Animal Welfare


Animals are used for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation and other reasons. Animal welfare allows these uses as long as "humane" guidelines are followed, which mostly include the principle of avoiding the animals pain. Animal welfare theories accept that animals have interests, but those interests are allowed to be traded away, as long as there are human benefits that are thought to justify that sacrifice. In line with this attitude, today´s juridical systems usually deny animals own rights, as for example to have their best interests taken into consideration regardless of whether they are useful to humans or not.
There is a growing appreciation of the insistence of consumers that animals used in food production should be well treated. In response, the body of EU legislation on animal welfare has increased steadily in recent years. This trend is likely to accelerate, especially in the light of the Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam which raised the ambitions of all EU institutions to do more to raise animal welfare standards. There is also a growing appreciation that high welfare standards have both a direct and indirect impact on food safety and quality and that regulatory and support systems in agriculture must adapt accordingly.

Guiding Question

Does the option affect animal welfare (i.e. humane treatment of animals)?

Relevant Policies

The Lisbon Treaty (Title II, Art. 13), requires, that "[i]n 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 Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage."
Community legislation sets minimum requirements in order to spare animals from any unnecessary suffering in three main areas: farming, transport and slaughter. It also tackles other issues, such as animal experiments and the fur trade. The 2006-2010 action plan sets out the broad outlines for European intervention in this field, both within the EU and beyond its borders.
For more information on concrete legislative measures, please visit


DG Health and Consumers:

Web Resources

Further sources of data


Further sources of information

DG Health and Consumers:
European Food Safety Authority:
European Environment Agency:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals:

Eurostat Indicators

The following Eurostat Sustainable Development Indicators might be of relevance to address the key question:
- Livestock density index

Other Official Indicators