Evaluating impact on animal welfare

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Does the option affect animal welfare (i.e. humane treatment of animals)?[1]


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 and usually focus on protecting the animals´ health as well - at least the aspects of health which are of importance within human use. 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.[1]

In contradiction to animals, there is no evidence that plants are able to experience pain - devoid as they are of central nervous systems, nerve endings, and brains.

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.[1]

Nevertheless, there is no international consensus on the role of animal welfare and the measures in place in the EU cannot be readily compared with standards in third countries. One of the reasons is the difficulty to precisely define the effects of animal welfare on animal health and food safety. The approach to animal welfare science is at present under revision world wide in particular to evaluate how ethical and cultural factors are determining its understanding. Nonetheless, it is clear that there is a growing trend towards improved standards, led by consumer demands in this direction.

Since 1999 the Protocol to the Treaty on Animal Welfare requires the European Institutions and the Member States to take full account of animal welfare when drafting and applying the Community's policies on agriculture, transport, internal market and research. This Protocol defines animals as "sentient beings" (i.e. capable of feeling pain) - a significant landmark.[1]

The European Commision's White Paper on on Food Safety proposes to promote the health and welfare of animals only in so far as Food Safety policy is directly concerned. The Commission acknowledges that animal health and welfare issues in a broader context are important. In the context of this White Paper, it is recognised that animal welfare questions need to be integrated more fully with regard to food policy. In particular the impact on the quality and safety of products of animal origin intended for human consumption needs to be reflected in the legislation.[1]



There are no Eurostat Structural Indicators directly related to this key question.

The following Eurostat Sustainable Development Indicators are relevant to address the key question:

Population trends of wild farmland birds reveal that the number of farmland bird species has crashed across Europe by more than 30 per cent since 1980.

Related is even the following following Sustainable Development Indicator:

Additional Links:

PETA - People for the Ethical treatment of animals: General information on the humane treatment of animals[1]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 JRC: IA TOOLS. Supporting inpact assessment in the European Commission. [1]

This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents. it is partly adopted from

Communication from the Commission on Animal Welfare Legislation on farmed animals in Third Countries and the Implications for the EU


European Commission White Paper on Food Safety