Full Title Name:  Brief Summary of International Comparative Animal Cruelty Laws

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Paige M. Tomaselli Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2003 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center

Summary comparing the laws of the US and Europe on the subject of companion animals and confinement farming, including slaughter and transport.


In the United States there are three Federal laws relating to animal welfare. These laws are the Animal Welfare Act, The Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1877, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Not one of these Federal Statutes regulates the treatment of companion animals or the treatment of animals raised for food while on the farm. Instead, state anti-cruelty acts are the only sources of protection for these animals. State anti-cruelty acts generally protect against intentionally harming, torturing or killing an animal and animal fighting. This protects pets from abuse. The treatment of farm animals (common husbandry practice) is commonly excluded from these state statutes. In fact, thirty states exempt some or all customary husbandry practices. When this occurs, farm animals have no legal protection. 

In the European Union, companion animals are protected by the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals. The basic principle of this treaty is that no person shall cause a pet unnecessary pain, suffering or distress. Additionally, it states that no one shall abandon a pet animal. Farm animals have several sources of protection in the EU. The European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Farming Purposes, the European Convention for the Protection of Animals During International Transport and the European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter. These treaties serve as a foundation for a series of laws adopted by the EU protecting farm animal welfare from life on the farm to the time of slaughter. The EU has adopted several laws phasing out and banning practices that are common husbandry practices in the US. These practices include battery cages for egg laying hens, veal crates for veal calves and gestation crates for pregnant sows. Additionally, the EU is making progress refining the laws on the international transport of animals. If passed, transporters would be required to rest, feed and water all species after every nine hours of transport. This is much shorter than the 28-36 hours allowed by the US Twenty-Eight Hour Law for interstate animal transport. The progressive steps taken by the EU have improved farm animal welfare and are leading the way in animal welfare around the world. 

Other European Countries also have adopted animal welfare legislation to help protect the lives of animals from needless suffering and unnecessary abuse. In Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Act on Animal Protection and the Animal Protection Ordinance is the governing statute. The Federal Act on Animal Protection is the framework for the regulations set in the Ordinance. This legislation is comprehensive and progressive, including many measures to ensure that no needless suffering is inflicted upon animals. The Norwegian Animal Welfare Act is the parent legislation to regulations on animal welfare in Norway. It is premised on the idea that animals shall be treated well, and consideration shall be given to the instinctive behavior and natural needs of these animals, so that there is no risk of causing them unnecessary suffering. Finally, the German Animal Welfare Act is a highly progressive piece of legislation. The aim of this law is to protect the lives and well-being of animals, based on the responsibility of human beings for their fellow creatures. 


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