Animal rights organizations fight for the lives and wellbeing of species around the world. But what legal protections are actually in place? And how do we rank as a nation?
World Animal Protection created an amazing tool, the Animal Protection Index, including an interactive map, allowing users to learn about and compare animal protection legislations of over 50 countries around the world.
The map ranks countries from A-G (A being the best, G being the worst). We’ve provided a selection for each ranking — and as you’ll see, the United States isn’t doing so great.
A. UNITED KINGDOM
Along with Austria and Switzerland, the UK is at the top of the list for most protections for animals. There is legislation preventing cruelty against animals in captivity, wild animals, and farm animals. In 2011 The Animal Welfare Act passed, recognizing all vertebrates as sentient, feeling beings. In addition, enforcement mechanisms are in place and punishments for breaking the laws such as fines and imprisonment. They also support the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), a move to encourage countries to agree upon and adopt a common set of standards protecting animals worldwide.
Also notable, Luxembourg is poised to become the country with the most expansive animal rights laws in the world.
The German Animal Welfare Act recognizes that vertebrates, warm-blooded and cold-blooded, including fish, amphibians, and cephalopods are capable of feeling pain and suffering. All warm-blooded farm animals are required to be stunned before slaughter and regulations for the treatment of companion animals is specific and far-reaching. Stray dogs are never euthanized unless there is a health risk. Regulations on animals in zoos exists, but is vague. Statements from the UDAW have been adopted, though the entire declaration has not.
All non-human beings are recognized as having physical and mental feelings which are somewhat protected under law and have been since 1960. Though these laws provide guidelines for farm and companion animals, they are not applied universally throughout the country. Official standards exist for zoos and anti-cruelty rules are specified for companion animals. Though the Animal Welfare Board of India endorses the UDAW, the government as a whole does not.
D. UNITED STATES
If this was a grade in school, the U.S. would be doing pretty badly. While the country has some considerations for animals written into law, for the most part we fall short. Legislation recognizes “some aspects of animal sentience in some animals.” The Animal Welfare Act calls for the humane treatment of some animals, however there is no general anti-cruelty provision. Laws regulating slaughter do not apply to poultry and no laws apply to the rearing of farm animals. Though some state and local laws offer more protections for pets, no federal law exists to prevent cruelty by pet owners.
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Though China is behind many in the world, changes are happening to make life better for animals. Animals in research labs, zoos, and meat and fur farms have some recognition of sentience and protection. Provisions and enforcement also exist for companion animals, however, the dog and cat meat trade incurs much protest from within the country and internationally.
The government of Russia has nothing in place or in the workings to improve conditions for animals, nor do they recognize animals as sentient beings. They get an F instead of a G because there are a few vague rules under environmental protection to manage endangered wild animals and the penal code that provisions agains cruelty to animals in general. Unfortunately, cruelty is undefined and enforcement mechanisms are without guidelines.
There is no legislation specifically created for the welfare of animals in Iran. Nor is there a large vocal outcry from the people supporting animal rights. That’s not to say that people aren’t sympathetic to animals’ plights; they may just live in fear of what will happen if they speak up. In April of this year over a dozen people were beaten and arrested at a demonstration for animal rights.
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