From the Five Freedoms to an Increasingly Effective Welfare Strategy

04 Dec 2015

A few days ago, the European Parliament adopted a non-legislative resolution aimed at developing a more ambitious and effective strategy for animal welfare. The current legal framework will expire at the end of this year, and it is now time to carefully evaluate how welfare standards in the member states can be further improved.


Kintoa Basque pig, ph. Marco del Comune

Twhich in 1965 developed the principle of the five freedoms—freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort and pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress—which still represent the cardinal principles of animal welfare. The report inaugurated a process of awareness-raising and gradual consciousness and the formation of an ethical and scientific foundation which unfolded with a series of crucial steps: in 1976, with the drafting of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes and, in 1978 with the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights, then in 1997 and 2009 with the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Treaty of Lisbon, which identify animals as sentient beings. Step by step, we are reaching the development of a multilayered strategy, which has brought the European Union to the top of the field in legal innovation when it comes to animal welfare.


Girgentana goat, ph. Salvatore Bordonario

All the same, there is still much work still to be done. We can only be happy about the resolution adopted by Parliament, and we hope it will inspire the development of an even more forceful strategy for the next four years. In our position paper on animal welfare, we showed how the current strategy in place until the end of this year drops the ball on certain aspects, for which there exists a kind of legislative void. In particular, attention was focused on:

  • • transport of the animals – the current legislation still allows animals to be transported for multiple consecutive days.
    • dairy cows – there is still no law on the well-being of cows used in the dairy industry.
    • antibiotics – we need a strategy for a drastic reduction in the use of antibiotics in animal farming.
    • cloned animals – the ban on selling meat from cloned animals or their descendants is still not formulated clearly enough.
    • labeling – there is still not a clear system of labeling for products made with meat.

Vara Valley Black cock, ph. Paolo Andrea Montanaro

Other on-going problems that were brought to light concerned, for example, the gradual closure of local slaughterhouses, which pushes even small-scale farmers to subject their animals to uncomfortable and lengthy transport and heavy stress just before and during slaughtering; the effective implementation of European regulations within EU countries; and farmed fish, which still live in tiny tanks, where the terrible water quality and overcrowding mean the animals can barely breathe.

The hope is that the strong interest of European consumers in meat that comes from farms with a high welfare standard represents a further incentive for the development of an even more effective strategy.

by Silvia Ceriani

Find out more
Animal welfare is attracting increasing attention in many countries around the world. Here is a short list of some of the main organizations working on the subject.
At a European level, the Eurogroup for Animals gathers multiple organizations working on animal welfare.
Internationally, the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals continues to fight hundreds of battles under the slogan “Animals are not ours”; Compassion in World Farming focuses its attention on the well-being of farmed animals.
In Asia, the Chinese Animal Protection Network is active in the sector and was the first to bring this subject to public attention, while the Animal Welfare Board of India was formed back in 1962.

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