World Animal Protection has delivered a comprehensive assessment of each country and considers a number of indicators which address the key issues relevant to improving animal welfare around the world.

Read the full detailed methodology below which outlines the themes included, individual indicators and scoring system applied. 

  • Recognising animal protection
    Recognising animal protection

    This theme examines recognition of animal sentience and the importance of animal protection as a societal value within the country, including government support for the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, prohibition of cruelty and protection for different categories of animals.

  • Governance structures and systems
    Governance structures and systems

    This theme examines government commitment to improving animal protection. This includes whether there is allocation of responsibility, accountability and resources within government.

  • Animal welfare standards
    Animal welfare standards

    This theme examines whether the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)’s animal welfare standards have been incorporated into law or policy, the extent of engagement with the OIE on animal welfare issues, and whether the government publishes reports on progress in improving animal welfare.

  • Providing humane education
    Providing humane education

    This theme examines whether issues of animal care and protection are included in the national education system at primary and secondary level, and comments on whether animal welfare issues such as humane handling form part of veterinary medicine education.

  • Promoting communication and awareness
    Promoting communication and awareness

    This theme examines whether there is government consultation and engagement with relevant stakeholders on animal protection issues, such as the development of new legislation and policy and the licensing of scientific research using animals.

The methodology in detail


How were countries selected?

This first publication of the Animal Protection Index (API) provides ratings for 50 countries. These countries were selected using statistics published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in their Statistical Yearbook for World and Agriculture 2012, from the countries which are the largest producers of beef, poultry, pork, sheep and goat, milk and eggs.


How were countries scored?

Each country's assessment was broken down into 15 unique indicators, grouped into 5 themes. More detail on each indicator can be found below. First and foremost the presence of legislation or policy addressing each issue was evaluated. Additionally, an assessment of the strength of that legislation or policy was made by considering:

  1. The extent to which the legislation or policy succeeds in making that particular issue of animal protection a mainstream concern of society;
  2. Whether there are barriers to improvement on that particular issue in the country. This includes the availability of resources and the presence of socio-cultural traditions and practices that might affect positively or negatively on animal protection; and
  3. Whether the legislation or policy includes a structure of relevant enforcement mechanisms. Although this does not assess the extent to which enforcement activity has taken place in the country, it shows whether the legislation or policy has the potential to be effective.

Countries are scored within seven bands, both for individual indicators and on an overall basis. These bands are A through to G, A representing the highest scoring and G the most room for improvement.


The themes and indicators in detail

Theme 1: Recognising animal protection


Indicator: Animal sentience is formally recognised in legislation and/or policy

Scientific research confirms that all vertebrates are sentient, and indicates sentience in some invertebrates. Sentience means the capacity to have feelings, including pain and pleasure, and implies a level of conscious awareness. Recognition of animal sentience is an important step in the protection of animals and is fundamental to ensuring that animals’ welfare needs are met.

The API looks for:

  • Full formal recognition of sentience or of separate elements of sentience (physical and psychological, positive and negative)

  • Applicable to all categories and uses of animals and at least to all vertebrates

  • Operating as the basis for animal protection in the country


Indicator: The government has pledged in principle support for the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare

The API also examines whether the government supports the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW). The UDAW is a proposed formal international acknowledgment of a set of principles giving animal welfare due recognition among governments and the international community.

To date, 46 country governments are fully supportive of the UDAW as are ministries from 17 other countries. The Council of the European Union has encouraged European Union Member States and the European Commission to support the UDAW, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has recognised that the UDAW provides a valuable guiding philosophy for efforts to improve the welfare of animals. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) passed a resolution on 24 May 2007, backing the development of a UDAW in principle. 

The API looks for:

  • Full government support in principle for the UDAW


Indicator: There are animal protection laws that prohibit causing animal suffering either by a deliberate act of cruelty or by a failure to act

Specific policy and legislation is then considered in relation to certain aspects of human interaction with animals. Prohibition against causing suffering to animals is a common starting point for legislation protecting animals. The API examines whether there is legislation prohibiting such conduct, including by deliberate acts of cruelty and by failure to act.

The API looks for:

  • Prohibition against causing suffering to animals

  • Applicable to all categories and uses of animals and at least to all vertebrates

  • Including suffering caused by failure to act by those responsible for animals


Different categories of animals and animal use are then considered, to assess whether there is protection for each particular group.


Indicator: Animals used in farming

The API looks for:

  • Protection of animals’ welfare needs during rearing, such as freedom of movement and freedom to express natural behaviours

  • Protection of animals’ welfare needs during transport

  • Protection of animals’ welfare needs at slaughter, including avoiding unnecessary suffering


Indicator: Animals in captivity

The API looks for:

  • Recognition of the specific welfare needs of captive wild animals

  • Ideally, a ban on fur farming and similar activities

  • Regulation of the zoo industry and of private keeping of wild animals


Indicator: Companion animals

The API looks for:

  • Protection of pet companion animals, such as a duty of care on owners, responsible ownership provisions, rules on breeding and sale, and rules on cosmetic mutilations

  • Protection of stray or feral companion animals, including humane stray population management


Indicator: Animals used for draught and recreation

The API looks for:

  • Protection for working animals, such as avoiding overloading and providing veterinary care

  • Regulation of the use of animals for recreational purposes

  • Ideally, a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and a ban on keeping cetaceans in captivity


Indicator: Animals used in scientific research

The API looks for:

  • Protection against unnecessary suffering, pain and stress

  • Regulation of the use of animals in scientific research

  • Incorporation of the “Three Rs” principle of replacement, refinement and reduction


Indicator: Wild animals

The API looks for:

  • Protection of the welfare of individual animals, in addition to measures for the conservation of particular groups of wild animals

  • Prohibition of or welfare-related restrictions on hunting


Theme 2: Governance structures and systems


Indicator: The government has assigned responsibility and accountability for improving animal protection at a high government level and has provided resources

It is important that governments recognise animal protection as an independent issue and allocate responsibility for improvement at a high government level. This enables animal welfare issues both to be addressed as independent concerns and to be taken into consideration in other areas of policy-making such as the environment and trade.

The API looks for:

  • Allocation of responsibility for animal welfare improvement at a high government level, with provision of resources

  • The establishment of a dedicated animal welfare body or bodies within government


Theme 3: Animal welfare standards


Indicator: The government is actively engaged with the OIE to improve animal welfare internationally, regionally and nationally

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is an international organisation concerned with the protection of animal health and welfare, with 178 member states and territories worldwide. Government engagement with the OIE can therefore assist in improving animal welfare. The OIE also provides a tool for the assessment of veterinary services in the country, on issues including disease control, food safety and animal welfare. Governments can request assessment by the OIE’s Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) tool and can choose whether the resulting report is made publicly available. The API considers the extent of engagement with the OIE and scope for this relationship to lead to improvements in animal welfare.

The API looks for:

  • Engagement with the OIE beyond basic reporting on animal disease control, ideally on animal welfare specific issues

  • Whether the government has requested that the OIE assess the country’s veterinary service with the OIE's PVS tool

  • Participation in the development and improvement of regional animal welfare strategies or similar initiatives led by the organisation


Indicator: The government has incorporated the OIE’s guiding principles for animal welfare and its animal welfare standards into policy and legislation

The work of the OIE and its standards in the area of animal welfare are recognised internationally as providing a model for good animal protection. The standards are developed through the work of expert groups, and since 2005 the World Assembly of OIE Delegates has adopted twelve animal welfare standards on issues such as transport and slaughter of animals. The API examines whether these standards and the OIE’s guiding principles on animal welfare have been incorporated into domestic legislation.

The API looks for:

  • Incorporation of the OIE’s animal welfare standards and guiding principles


Indicator: The government publishes reports on progress towards goals set to monitor and improve standards of animal welfare

The API also examines whether the government publishes reports on progress towards goals set to monitor and improve animal welfare. This allows for public accountability, raises public awareness of animal protection issues, and provides strategic direction for relevant government bodies.

The API looks for:

  • Existing mechanisms to capture, analyse and publish data relevant to animal welfare promotion or improvement. 

  • Regular reporting on animal welfare issues

  • Reports made publicly available


Theme 4: Providing humane education


Indicator: Animal care and protection are included in the national education system

Inclusion of humane education in the national education system is an important way of effecting change by instilling principles of good animal care and protection within society at a young age. This goal also comments on the inclusion of animal welfare issues within veterinary medical courses and relevant government public education and training initiatives.

The API looks for:

  • Legislation or policy mandating the inclusion of animal protection and humane education within the school-age curriculum

  • Government support to animal welfare components at other levels of education and training


Theme 5: Promoting communication and awareness


Indicator: The government works with others to improve animal protection by consulting and engaging relevant stakeholders, including NGOs

Government consultation and engagement with relevant stakeholders, including NGOs, is an important step in the delivery of the necessary attitudinal changes to deliver improvements in animal welfare. Policies, laws and standards should be developed in consultation with a broad range of key interest groups to ensure that they are fit for purpose and enforceable.

The API looks for:

  • Legislation or policy mandating consultation with relevant stakeholders, including NGOs, on issues relating to animal welfare
Countries Selected
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