Animal Welfare in the UK
Animal welfare is an issue that is taken very seriously throughout the UK. In many respects, the laws regarding animal welfare are stronger than those found in the United States and other developed nations. This is especially true when it comes to the way livestock are treated. Animal welfare laws in the UK are developed to approach the issue from a number of different angles. This includes the enforcement of animal treatment laws by the police, but it also extends far beyond that. There are also a number of laws in place throughout the country that earmark special funds to help pay for rehabilitation, housing and treatment of mistreated animals.
To understand how animal welfare is approached in the United Kingdom, it's important to look at the two major types of laws regarding animal welfare. The first set of laws take the welfare of personal pets into account while the other set focuses primarily on "stock" animals. Stock animals for the purposes listed here will refer mostly to animals used for breeding, scientific experimentation and livestock for food. These different types of stock animals are all held to different standards, so looking at them individually is key.
Pet Welfare in the United Kingdom
There are a number of stringent animal welfare laws protecting pets in the United Kingdom. The specific focus here is on the medical treatment, feeding, housing and physical treatment of animals while under the care of a human master. In many ways, pets are held to a higher animal welfare standard than other types of animals.
In cases where animals are being neglected or ill-treated in any way, the RSPCA is brought in to help where it can. The organization focuses on animal welfare throughout all areas of the United Kingdom and it is the largest organization of its kind in the UK. While its mission is singular, the way it approaches that mission is multi-faceted. The organization will at different times house animals, give them medical care, find them suitable homes and perform many other vital functions.
Strict legislation and the presence of large animal welfare organisations in the United Kingdom have contributed to a much lower animal abuse rate than is found in other developed nations. In some countries, animal abusers can face a nominal fine and will rarely see prison time. In the United Kingdom, animal abusers regularly face fines upward of ten thousand pounds and often get lengthy prison terms if they are guilty of a particularly egregious violation. Even pet owners who are neglectful can be banned from ever legally owning another pet for the rest of their lives. This is all very explicitly codified into law by the Animal Welfare Act of 2006.
The United Kingdom has very detailed regulations regarding how all types of animals should be treated both in the wild and in captivity. Animals from game birds to rabbits and livestock are covered by this lengthy set of regulations. A big influence on this is the conspicuous lack of species diversity that is found in land animals and aquatic species throughout the United Kingdom. As it has been a developed land for a very long time, none of the original habitats still exist. Due to extreme overfishing, hunting and habitat destruction, the few remaining species of animals are treated with great care. In truth, one cannot truly understand animal welfare in the UK without first understanding how the government regulates game animals and their care.
Game birds and other hunting-stock are to be given adequate space and resources to exist healthfully. Farmed animals like cattle, sheep and even emus are given strict housing guidelines for all stages of development. However, animals like chickens often fall through the cracks of these regulations as is common throughout the world. In truth, there are many supposedly "free range" chicken houses throughout the UK that are little more than cageless warehouses where chickens are still crammed together so much that they can barely walk. These issues are constantly evolving and the United Kingdom's parliamentary system of governance helps to expedite the passage of many of these laws.
Standards are Improving
In all sectors of animal welfare throughout the United Kingdom, animal welfare is improving. This can mostly be attributed to greater public awareness has made animal welfare a central issue throughout the UK.