EU and US Animal Welfare Legislation – Summary Comparison

Animal Cruelty webpages on this site will provide information on current legislation that protects animals in the EU and US (I may look beyond these contexts in future, but will start with this focus).  This summary comparison will also feature on the main Animal Cruelty page: While at present no effective international treaty exists to protect animals worldwide, the EU has made some steps forward in the Lisbon Treaty (2009) and now European countries, on paper, surpass the US in terms of stronger animal welfare laws.  EU laws acknowledge the intrinsic value and moral status of animals by recognising animal sentience, whereas in the US, legal protection is minimal and most US states consider animals merely “property”.  Protection for farm animals in the EU is also more persuasive due to bans on hen battery cages, calf crates and crates for pregnant sows.  In the US there are no such bans, and there is no federal law that protects animals on farms.  The EU also has firm restrictions on the transport of farm animals and on the conditions in which they are kept.  Unfortunately, the dairy and meat industries in the US, backed by a significant number of politicians, exert a strong influence on the regulation/enforcement of laws intended to protect farm animals; thus, protection is very limited.  Some ground has been gained in the US, since companion animals are now considered to have moral status – this only came about through the extensive efforts of animal welfare activists.  Better enforcement of existing laws is still needed in the EU, as is an international treaty for the protection of animals.  The US has a long way to go to even reach EU standards.

Sources for further information: