Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is a complex and multi-faceted subject with scientific, ethical, economic, cultural, social, religious and political dimensions. It is attracting growing interest from civil society and is one of the priorities of the OIE. The OIE, at the request of its Member Countries, is the international organisation responsible for setting standards on this topic.

The OIE Global Animal Welfare Strategy was developed from lessons learned from actions taken at national and regional level and aims to be a source of ongoing guidance for the OIE’s activities in this area. Adopted in 2017 by all Member Countries, it was developed with the objective of achieving: “A world where the welfare of animals is respected, promoted and advanced, in ways that complement the pursuit of animal health, human well-being, socio-economic development and environmental sustainability”.

The strategy focuses on the development of international standards on animal welfare, in consultation with Member Countries and key international stakeholders, developing the capacity of Veterinary Services, improving communication with governments and raising awareness around the issue, and, finally, supporting Member Countries in the implementation of these standards.

 © OIE /J.Bacelar
Our definition of animal welfare

According to the OIE Terrestrial Code, animal welfare means ‘the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the conditions in which it lives and dies.

The guiding principles which inform the OIE’s work on the welfare of terrestrial animals include the ‘Five Freedoms’. Developed in 1965, and widely recognised, the five freedoms describe society’s expectations for the conditions animals should experience when under human control, namely:

  • freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst;
  • freedom from fear and distress;
  • freedom from heat stress or physical discomfort;
  • freedom from pain, injury and disease; and
  • freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

With regards to the welfare of aquatic animals, the OIE has developed international standards for the welfare of farmed fish (except ornamental species) in the Aquatic Code and advocates the use of ‘handling methods appropriate to the biological characteristics of the fish and a suitable environment to fulfil their needs’.

OIE Global Animal Welfare Strategy

Perceptions of animal welfare differ from one region to another and between one culture and another, as do and the ways animals contribute to human society. It is for this reason that the OIE’s work in developing international standards must have a solid scientific basis, must involve wide engagement of all stakeholders, must ensure a holistic view of the systems within which animals are kept and used by humans, and must aim to have a tangible impact on animal welfare.

In May 2017, all OIE Member Countries adopted the first Global Animal Welfare Strategy, which had been presented at the 4th Global Conference on Animal Welfare, which took place in Guadalajara (Mexico) in December 2016.

The strategy includes the following four pillars:

This page provides access to a range of tools and information on animal welfare and provides details of animal welfare events. Please feel free to use and distribute this information freely.

Informative documents
Animal welfare strategy infographic
Infographic on animal welfare

Animal welfare: focusing on the future
OIE Scientific and Technical Review, Vol. 33(1), April 2014
Scientific assessment and management of animal pain
Technical Series Vol. 10
Animal Welfare: global issues, trends and challenges
Scientific and Technical Review Vol.24(2), 2005
Animal welfare: an asset for livestock production
Bulletin 2017-1
Training DVD of the OIE Improved Animal Welfare Programme
Welfare of working equids
(in Spanish)
(in collaboration with ICWE)
Regional Seminar for OIE National Focal Points on Animal Welfare of the European Region
Press releases
  • 24/05/17 Adoption of the first OIE global strategy on animal welfare
  • 12/12/16 4th OIE Global Conference on Animal welfare: towards a new global strategy on animal welfare
  • 07/09/16 A new OIE and OECD collaboration to face animal health and welfare future challenges
    29/05/15 New global intergovernmental standards and guidelines on animal health and welfare
  • 20/05/15 An overview of the OIE’s standards on animal welfare: a new interactive Infographic
  • 24/05/14 New OIE international standards and guidelines on animal health
  • 24/12/13 OIE Regional Platform on animal welfare for Europe: A three year Action Plan 2014-2016 validated
  • 05/03/13 « Improved Animal Welfare Programme » successfully completed in Indonesia
  • 08/11/12 3rd OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare
  • 30/10/12 First Session of the OIE “Improved Animal Welfare Programme”
  • 24/05/12 The OIE World Assembly of Delegates adopted first international standards on animal welfare in livestock production systems
  • 06/04/12 Animal welfare problems in maritime transport: statement of the OIE
  • 19/05/09 The OIE advocates implementing international standards for humane killing of animals for disease prevention purposes
  • 21/10/08 2nd OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare “Putting the OIE Standards to Work”