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The Animal Welfare Timeline: Milestones

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Today, the notion of animal welfare is everywhere: in consumer and citizen expectations but also in the various specifications, regulations, marketing initiatives, farming systems….

But the recognition of the sensitive nature of animals and their ability to feel emotions goes back a long way. Scroll down this page to discover important dates for animal welfare awareness and regulation!


Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The philosophical tradition
During the Enlightenment, the notion of « sentient animal » appeared in the Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men:
« It appears, in fact, that if I am bound to do no injury to my fellow-creatures, this is less because they are rational than because they are sentient beings: and this quality, being common both to men and beasts, ought to entitle the latter at least to the privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former”.


Jeremy Bentham

At the same time, the English philosopher wrote about animals in An introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation:

The question is not, « Can they reason? » nor « Can they speak? » but « Can they suffer?  » 


First Animal Protection Associations

1824: Creation of the first animal protection association in the United Kingdom, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

It was quickly followed by the creation of the SPA (Animal Protection Society) in France in 1845 by Etienne Pariset. His first fight was the protection of horses mistreated by Parisian coachmen.


Loi Grammont

It is the first animal protection law
It condemns public abuses against domestic animals.


Russell and Burch

The founding texts
In their book on the ethical treatment of laboratory animals« Principles of Human Experimental Technique, » these two biologists outlined the 3Rs: Replacement of animals in research, Reduction of the number of animals used, and Refinement of experiments whenever possible.


Ruth Harrisson

She published a reference book on farm animals: « Animal Machines, The New Factory Farming Industry » where she denounced living conditions in intensive animal farming.


The Brambell Report

This report defines the basic needs of farm animals to be fulfilled. It is the basis for the 5 freedoms and the modern assessment of animal welfare.


Peter Singer

Peter Singer published « Animal Liberation », which had a founding role in the development of the animal rights movement.


French regulations

The notion of sensitive being appears in the rural code’s law of July 10, 1976:
Article L214.1: “Any animal as a sentient being must be placed by its owner in conditions compatible with the biological imperatives of its species”.

The law of February 16, 2015, introduces the concept of animals as living beings « endowed with sentience » into the civil code.


European regulations

Treaty of Amsterdam

From « commodities » in the Treaty of Rome in 1957, animals became « sentient beings« :
 « In formulating and implementing the Union’s agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals ». 


European directives

They are transposed into national law and must be applied in farms on a daily basis. Read to know more about them.

1998: General directive for the protection of animals in all types of breeding
The 1998 directive imposes minimum standards on housing and practices. It was revised in 2000 for pigs, broilers and calves. It is an obligation of means.
From 2007 onwardsan obligation to achieve results is gradually appearing. The directive on the protection of broilers was the first to introduce indicators regarding animals and has allowed the housing conditions of broilers to evolve to better take into account species-related needs.


Structures and Action Plans

2006-2010: The Welfare Quality European project allows the implementation of an animal welfare evaluation protocol.
2009: Introduction of an  animal welfare web portal by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
2015-2020: France’s animal welfare strategy.
20 priority actions identified. For example, chick sexing or the appointment of animal welfare referents in slaughterhouses.
2017: Introduction of the French Centre national de référence sur le bien-être animal (CNR) and the Chaire bien-être animal (VetAgro Sup) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
2018: Creation of the first European Reference Center for Animal Welfare with a focus on pigs.


Legislative work

2020-2021: 2 bills are discussed in France, one law against animal suffering and one law to improve the welfare of pets.