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Animal welfare in the UK, an introduction

The UK has an excellent reputation for high standards in animal welfare. The first legislation on animal welfare in the world was implemented here in 1822 by an 'Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle' - and the UK has led the way ever since. Domestic and captive animals are now protected by the Protection of Animals Acts, 1911-2000, making it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering whether by commission or omission. Laws exist to protect performing animals, pets, to prevent cruel sports (eg cockfighting), abandoning animals, to set standards in boarding and riding establishments, dog breeding and farriers, to monitor tethering, keeping of wild animals and so on.

In addition to the above, farmed animals are further protected by the Agriculture Act (Miscellaneous Provisions) 1968 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations (England) 2000 with similar legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These regulations provide for farm inspections, requirement for record keeping, animal freedom of movement, standards of buildings and equipment and feeding and watering. No animal may be caused unnecessary pain or distress. Specific Codes of Recommendations have been approved by both houses of Parliament and while these do not lay down statutory requirements per se, the onus is on all attending to livestock to be familiar with and have access to the relevant codes for the species they are involved with. These codes are available in .pdf format from Defra at the links below.

Other Aspects of Welfare Legislation also exists to monitor the wellbeing of animals in markets (from the time of unloading to departure), during transport (from loading, to care during the journey to unloading) and at slaughter.

Statistics for Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare 
TB tests Great Britain
(No. herds)
48790 46617 56208 56605 53822 57853 60523
TB tests Great Britain
(No. cattle)
4,638,761 4,848,057 5,469,939 5,879,496 6,321,734 6,941,460 7,562,694
TB herd incidents (new)
(No. incidents)
3349 3670 3528 4172 5012 4574 4703
Animals slaughtered under TB orders
(No. cattle)
23064 30093 22282 28204 39973 36322 32737
Herds under restriction Dec 31st
3745 5748 6856 7880 7629 8379 6090