Development of Animal Welfare Standards

Recognised international standards

The first OIE standards on animal welfare were published in the Terrestrial Code in 2004 and in the Aquatic Code in 2008, respectively. They are regularly updated as scientific knowledge evolves, and new standards are developed to cover different aspects of welfare. Like all OIE standards, these texts are science based.

Member Countries, experts and relevant international governmental and non-governmental organisations are consulted throughout the development process. This ensures that the standards are in line with the most recent scientific developments. Each year the OIE World Assembly of Delegates adopts the new and revised standards.

The first OIE standards on animal welfare addressed animal transport, the slaughter of animals, and killing for disease control purposes. Subsequently, other standards included the use of animals in research and education, stray dog population control and the welfare of working equids. The OIE’s most recent work on animal welfare standards has been in relation to production systems for beef and dairy cattle, broiler chickens and, most recently, pigs with four new chapters adopted since 2012.

Unlike the OIE’s animal health and veterinary public health standards, animal welfare standards are not recognised in the WTO SPS Agreement. Nonetheless, as science-based international standards adopted by the OIE World Assembly of Delegates, they are the internationally recognised standards for animal welfare.

The infographic below lists all the standards that have been published in the OIE Terrestrial and Aquatic Codes and the topics that on which the OIE has initiated discussions.

Animal welfare strategy infographic
Global network of scientific expertise

The OIE has a strong global network of scientific expertise and regularly brings together subject-matter experts to contribute to the standard development process.

Collaborating Centres
The OIE has an established network of centres of expertise that work with the OIE in the development and implementation of its animal welfare standards. These Reference Centres, which are designated as such by the World Assembly of Delegates, must provide assistance to countries that ask for it and support them in the implementation of OIE standards. Find out more.

Animal welfare ad hoc groups
OIE standards are developed through the work of expert ad hoc Groups that are convened to draft new or revised chapters. The reports of these ad hoc Groups are annexed to the reports of the Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission (the Code Commission) and the Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission (the Aquatic Animals Commission) and are also available on a dedicated page on the OIE website.

The former OIE Animal Welfare Working Group
Led the development and review of OIE standards up until 2017. Their meeting reports can be consulted below.

May 2016May 2015June 2014
June 2013June 2012June 2011
June 2010June/July 2009June 2008
September 2007July 2006September 2005
December 2004February 2004October 2002
Other guidelines

In addition to the standards published in the Terrestrial and Aquatic Codes, the OIE has developed guidelines on some specific topics.

Natural disasters

In 2016, the OIE published Guidelines on disaster management and risk reduction in relation to animal health, animal welfare and veterinary public health, with the aim of strengthening the capacity of Veterinary Services in its Member Countries. Experience has shown that the prospects for sustainable recovery from natural disasters in affected communities are closely linked to the condition of their animals.

More information
Research and education

Discussion paper: Role for the OIE in laboratory animal welfare

Working animals