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Animal welfare

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What is the current situation and background

Government action to improve animal welfare involves both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. Regulation will be used where necessary to ensure compliance with EU obligations. The policy instruments adopted will always seek to ensure a proportionate approach which balances the need for improved welfare against the costs and burdens involved eg the use of risk-based inspections and controls.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met. These include the need:

  • for a suitable environment (place to live)
  • for a suitable diet
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

Anyone who is cruel to an animal, or does not provide for its welfare needs, may be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and/or sent to prison.

Further information can be found at About the Animal Welfare Act 2006

The welfare of farmed animals is additionally protected by The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 (S.I. 2007 No 2078) (as amended), which are made under the Animal Welfare Act. Guidance is available to accompany the Regulations and includes information on the application of the new legislation to common land.

Codes of Recommendations (“Welfare Codes”)

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 allows for Codes of Recommendations for the welfare of animals to be produced. Welfare codes do not lay down statutory requirements. However, livestock farmers and employers are required by law to ensure that all those attending to their livestock are familiar with, and have access to, the relevant codes. Although the main aim of the welfare codes is to encourage farmers to adopt high standards of husbandry, they may also be used to back up legislative requirements. Where a person is charged with a welfare offence, failure to comply with the provisions of a welfare code may be relied on by the prosecution to establish guilt.

The Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 (WAMO) contains rules covering the treatment of animals in markets to ensure they are not caused injury or unnecessary suffering. They also set out detailed arrangements in respect of penning, food and water and the care of young animals. Responsibility for enforcing WAMO rests with Local Authorities.

Animal welfare at transport

Regulation 1/2005 applies whether transporting animals to your local market or exporting animals to another country.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC)

FAWC is an independent advisory body which publishes its advice on various aspects of farm animal welfare to inform the government and the wider public on welfare issues. Further information on the role they play is available the  FAWC website.

Relevant legislation and regulations

Welfare during transport:

Welfare at slaughter or killing:

On-farm welfare:

Key publications and documents

Welfare during transport:

  • Advice and general enquiries regarding welfare during transport can be obtained from the Welfare In Transport Helpline on 0845 603 8395 or wit@animalhealth.gsi.gov.uk

On-farm welfare:

Page last modified: 21 February 2011