Has the EU implemented genuinely 'modern' animal 'welfare' standards?

'Are the current EU animal welfare standards future fit or can we expect further updates'?

That's the opening line of a March 2022 article following the most recent animal welfare legal developments within the EU.

It's a good question. The article continued by pointing out that society is increasingly concerned about animal welfare. There is good reason for that concern given that the inseparable human-animal relationship means that standards of animal law have significant consequences for animals and people.

For the last 200 years ‘anti-cruelty’ law (which is still the prevalent legal model of animal law in almost every country of the world) applies a legal responsibility for just half of the sentient animal's feelings and experiences. Specifically, as the name demonstrates, anti-cruelty law focuses on simply the animal's level of necessary suffering (‘negative states’).

The concept of positive animal welfare developed in recognition that animals experience more than just pain and that an animal's well-being consequently involved more than simply reducing their suffering.

Positive animal welfare law” essentially regulates the concept of positive animal welfare and extends the current anti-cruelty duty of care thereby creating a legally enforceable responsibility for BOTH halves of the animal's life experience.

Have a look at the duty of care in the animal law of your own country. You'll likely see that there is reference to the animal's pain, distress and suffering - but chances are you'll see nothing referencing the animals ‘positive states’ of comfort, interest or enjoyment.  And don't be misled – reassurances that animals are provided with more space and access to the outdoors in order to express natural behaviours is a good step in the right direction BUT it's not the same as positive animal welfare law.

The impacts of continuing with a ‘half’ duty of care quickly become evident when considering each of the three subgroups of animal law. Each of the three subgroups involves animals and are linked to people’s livelihoods and lives. For example:

  1. private animal law is relevant to issues of domestic violence and bullying that occurs in the school playground, the workplace, and the privacy of people’s homes.
  2. public animal law involves animal welfare standards, food safety, biosecurity, issues of consumer confidence and related opportunities for industry involving trade both nationally and internationally.
  3. international animal law is relevant to global issues including climate change, biodiversity loss, antimicrobial resistance, and the sustainability goals of the United Nations.

Simple logic demonstrates that if you try to solve modern world problems with outdated tools that are no longer fit for purpose, then chances of success are reduced from the outset.

So perhaps another good question, in fact, a critical question is whether animal law can afford NOT to take responsibility for BOTH halves of the lives of animals and people?

You can read more on ‘how’ to recognise genuinely ‘modern’ law that reflects the modern science of the Five Domains and modern concepts of animal ‘welfare’ by visiting www.sentientanimalaw.org