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The Welsh Government has responsibilities in relation to the control and, where possible, the eradication of animal disease in Wales to improve the health and welfare of animals in Wales.

The law in relation to the health and welfare of animals in Wales is contained in UK and Welsh legislation.

Animal Health

The EU has made some 400 individual items of legislation in relation to animal health.  In essence, the legislation is designed to prevent the spread of, and eradicate, animal disease outbreaks which can harm not just other animals but also humans as well as the overall economy and trade. 

The legislation made by the EU can be grouped as follows:

  • Preventative measures on intra-community trade and imports of live animals, semen, ova and embryos and products of animal origin;
  • Legislation on animal diseases which includes control measures to be taken as soon as the presence of disease is suspected and eradication and monitoring programmes for diseases which are already present within the EU – diseases covered by this legislation include African Horse Sickness, African Swine Fever, Foot and Mouth disease, Avian Influenza, Bluetongue, Classical Swine Fever, Newcastle’s disease ;
  • Identification measures to guarantee the traceability of bovine, equine, porcine, ovine and caprine animals. 

The Welsh Ministers have been designated by an Order in Council made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 as having the power to take action in relation to certain fields of EU law in relation to Wales to include the veterinary and phytosanitary field for the protection of public health (see the European Communities (Designation) (No. 2) Order 2008). 

In addition, a number of Orders in Council have been made which designate the Welsh Ministers as having the power to take action in Wales in relation to the CAP (see the European Communities (Designation) (No.3) Order 1999, the European Communities (Designation) (No. 5) Order 2010).

The key items of UK legislation in relation to animal health are the Animal Health Act 1981 and the Animal Health Act 2002. These Acts make provision about the control and eradication of certain animal diseases.  In particular, the 1981 Act gives the Welsh Ministers the powers to make orders to prevent the spread of disease amongst animals.  A number of orders have been made under these powers (sometimes also in reliance in on the Welsh Ministers’ powers to act under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972) in relation to Wales dealing with a variety of animal diseases including Bluetongue, Foot and Mouth, Tuberculosis.

Animal Welfare

The EU has also legislated in relation to animal welfare. The European Commission’s general aim is to ensure that animals need not endure avoidable pain or suffering and that the owners or keepers of animals respect the minimum welfare requirements of animals.

The animal welfare legislation made by the EU can be grouped as follows:

  • On the farm and in particular calves, pigs and laying hens;
  • During Transport;
  • At the time of slaughter or killing.

Council Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes made general rules for the protection of animals of all species which are kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur or for other farming purposes, including fish, reptiles or amphibians.

These rules are based on the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes. They reflect the so-called 'Five Freedoms' as adopted by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, namely:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst - access to fresh water and a diet for full health and vigour,
  • Freedom from discomfort - an appropriate environment with shelter and comfortable rest area,
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease - prevention or rapid treatment,
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour - adequate space and facilities, company of the animal's own kind,
  • Freedom from fear and distress - conditions and treatment which avoid mental sufferings.

EU legislation about the welfare conditions of farm animals lays down minimum standards. Member states can adopt more stringent rules provided they are compatible with the provisions of the Treaty.

There are a number of key UK Acts in relation to the welfare of animals.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 affords protection to ‘protected animals’ defined as an animal which is —

  • of a kind which is commonly domesticated in the British Islands, or
  • under the control of man whether on a permanent or temporary basis, or
  • not living in a wild state.

The 2006 Act makes it a criminal offence to cause in certain circumstances unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

Other UK Acts make provision in relation to animal welfare and protection, for example, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In exercise of powers conferred on the Welsh Ministers under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 or UK Acts, or both, the Welsh Ministers have made orders and regulations in relation to animal welfare, for example:


The EU has made legislation in relation to the promotion of free trade in breeding animals and their genetic material considering the sustainability of breeding programmes and the preservation of genetic resources.

The legislation deals with matters including the recognition of breeding organisations, entries in herdbooks and pedigree certificates, performance testing and genetic evaluation, acceptance for breeding and identification documents. 

In exercise of powers under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, statutory instruments have been made in relation to Wales to give effect to the legislation made by the EU. For example, the Horses (Zootechnical Standards) (Wales) Regulations 2006 were made to specify the criteria which an organisation or association must satisfy in order to become recognised by the Welsh Ministers for the purpose of maintaining a stud book.

Published on
25 March 2021
Last updated
03 June 2021