Animal Welfare Laws Internationally


Argument Research Essay

Animal Welfare Laws Internationally

By: Candice Stokes

December 11, 2015

Animal abuse is becoming a common topic in the news from around the world. For instance, in Taji, Japan every September and running until March, thousands of whales and dolphins are herded into what has become known as The Cove. They are then beaten, harpooned and separated from their calves, to be sent off to slaughter or sold to aquariums or private owners (Operation Henkaku, 2015).

The primary principle of today’s animal rights movement is that most nonhuman animals have simple interests that warrant recognition, consideration, and protection. Animal rights advocates feel that these core interests give the animals that have them both moral and legal rights.

Animal abuse varies widely, starting from unintentional neglect to severe intentional neglect, dog fighting, hoarding, ritualistic sacrifices, crush (videos depicting women stomping helpless animals to death with spiked-heel shoes or with their bare feet) (Mears, 2010) or bestiality (bestiality or zoophilia, is a mental disorder where humans exploit sexual desires with animals) (

Few countries have animal welfare laws enacted, and if laws do exist they are rarely enforced, this includes the United States. The status of an animal as a property has severely limited the type of legal protection that we extend to animals.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, all 50 states have federal and state laws regarding animal cruelty (ALDF). Chris Berry, a lawyer for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, writes that “all 50 states now have felony animal cruelty provisions enacted” (Berry, 2014). Therefore, any person(s) caught abusing an animal will be at risk of being charged with a Class A felony, these crimes would include any violent crimes or assaults (FBI, 2015).

Paige Tomaselli, the author of Brief Summary of International Comparative Animal Cruelty Laws, notes that out of the three U. S. Federal statutes, The Animal Welfare Act, The Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1877, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, not one of them addresses or regulates the treatment of companion animals or how animals are raised for food while living on a farm (Tomaselli, 2003). In those instance’s each state’s anti-cruelty laws would protect those animals who have been intentionally harmed, tortured, killed or made to fight (Tomaselli, 2003).

Farm husbandry is excluded from most state laws, leaving farm animals with little to no protection (Tomaselli, 2003). The Humane Methods Slaughter Act (7 USC, 1901-1907) (9 CFR 313) pertains only to the treatment of animals ‘before’ slaughter and ‘during’ slaughter; there are no federal laws that regulate the treatment of a farm animal while living on a farm in the United States. A person would need to look at each state for any protections they may have (USDA NAL, n.d).

The Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The original Act only pertained to nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, dogs, and cats. The LAW Act was amended and renamed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 1970 and consisted of a broader class of animals. The definition of an animal was also expanded upon to incorporate any warm-blooded animals, and a research facility’s definition was expanded to include institutions using covered live animals and not just dogs and cats. (Cardon, A., et. al., p 301-305, 2012).

In Spain, the Spanish Animal Welfare Act 32/2007 provides an outline for legislation about animal welfare, the violations, and the punishments for violating the guidelines. (Giminez-Candela, T, 2007). However, the Act refers to animals kept only for economic reasons and omits animals used for hunting, organized competition sports and pets (Brennan, B., n.d). However, Article 337 of the Spanish Penal Code could offer protection to the animals omitted from the Act.  The Act would punish any person abusing or causing harm to an animal and, they would be sentenced from one month up to three years and would not be able to partake in any business dealings for three years in regards to any animals (Brennan, B., n.d).

In the United Kingdom, farmed animals are monitored under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, which holds owners responsible for making sure that the needs of the animals in their care are being met. Also, the UK has implemented The Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations (2007, amended in 2010) which offers additional protections to farmed animals. The Act of 2006 makes causing unnecessary suffering to an animal a punishable offense and includes a ‘duty of care’ to the animals, citing that anyone who is responsible for any animal must take reasonable and necessary steps to ensure the animal’s needs are met.

 Judicial Process – Law, Courts, and Politics in the United States points out that in order to convict someone of a crime, one must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” (pg. 361), which in the case of animal welfare is a tough standard to meet (Neubauer, D., et. al, 2013).

A law professor at the University of Hong Kong, Amanda Whitefort was commissioned to review the anti-cruelty laws of Hong Kong. In her report, Review of Animal Welfare Legislation in Hong Kong, she found that the laws are “often fragmented and confusing even to those who implement them. It is often difficult for them to be enforced because they are unsure how those laws should be interpreted and which laws would apply to certain situations” (Whitefort).

Jr. Democratic Senator, Benjamin Cardin (MD) co-sponsored H.R. 847 (113th) the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (PUPS). This Act would have amended the Animal Welfare Act to define high volume retail breeders and specify certain requirements for the housing and care of the animals. However, the Act died in Congress (On the Issues, 2011-12).

Peter Li, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of East Asian Politics at the University of Houston-Downtown and China’s Policy Specialist for the Humane Society International. In a Forbes magazine interview, Mr. Li said that “China has lagged behind the industrialized nations in animal protection law-making for more than 180 years” (Tobias, 2012).

In an article posted by the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2011 (HSLF), it stated that then Republican, U. S. Representative, Michelle Bachmann supported only a few animal protection bills during her Congressional career. For example, she opposed many measures including; reforms to ban the trade of dangerous primates as pets, and she voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from collecting data on greenhouse gasses from factory farms (HSLF, 2011).

Joseph Lubinski wrote an article for the Michigan State University College of Law Animal Legal and Historical Center entitled Introduction to Animal Rights (2nd Ed). His article points out that during the late nineteenth century, the publication of Animal Rights helped to create the American and British Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the enactment of the first anti-cruelty laws. These laws would recognize for the first time that animals themselves have a right to be free from unnecessary and cruel suffering. With the enactment of such legislation, it gave the states the power to punish anyone who inflicted pain on a non-human creature (Lubinski, 2004).

In the United States, anti-cruelty has been enforced for centuries. Richard Ryder, author of Animal Revolution, Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism, notes that the first states to create anti-cruelty laws were: New York in 1828, Massachusetts in l835, and Connecticut and Wisconsin in l838 (Ryder, 1998).

In 1822, Martin’s Act, the first animal protection law against cruelty was written in Great Britain to control animal experimentation and did not include cats, dogs, or birds.

In China, shoppers want to ensure that the food they purchase is fresh. Customers buy live animals such as chickens, fish, turtles, frogs and ducks and have them butchered either at the vendor or at home.

In the United States, Chinese immigrants continue this practice to the dismay of a portion of the American populace that thinks the keeping of these animals and their ensuing slaughter to be inhumane. In San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Chinese craving for fresh meat led to a lawsuit in 1998 by animal rights activists against Chinatown’s market owners (Roleff, T., et. al, 1999).

According to Animal Rights, Animal Wrongs, The Case for Nonhuman Personhood written by Stephen Wise he notes that internationally, animals are seen as things, incapable of having any rights and, therefore, are seen as property. Whereas, humans are seen as having inherent value and having some legal rights (Wise, 2015).

Peter Singer wrote in his article Ethics, published in the Encyclopedia Britannica that the Pythagoras believed that animals deserved some protection and decided to eat a vegetarian diet. However, Aristotle argued that people were superior to all other forms of life and that accountability carried no ethical obligations towards lesser beings (Singer, Peter, 1985). Jeremy Bentham contended (although he was not referring directly to animal rights), “the protection of any creature should depend not on its ability to reason, but its ability to suffer” (Bentham, 1781).

Some animals took on a religious significance, for instance, in Egypt, a human-animal hybrid such as Anubis (depicted as a man with a jackal head), and they were considered Gods. In China; many people practice Buddhism, which dates back to the 6th-century BC. According to Buddhist Studies: Basic Buddhism written by Tan Swee Eng, Buddhism maintains the belief of love, kindness, and compassion to all living beings, animals included and strictly forbids animal sacrifice (Swee, Eng). Currently, Buddhist make up about 1 percent of the population in the United States, or roughly three million people, making Buddhism the third-largest religion in the United States (Hackett, C., et. al., 2012).

Mayor S. Hamanaka of Taji, Japan made a statement in 1994 and directly addressed environmentalists in making the case of whale hunting one of tradition:

Because of those historical reasons, we consider ourselves to be “a whaling people.” We are proud of our heritage and want to hand it down to the next generations. Thus, it was a traumatic experience that our values were attacked fiercely by western environmentalists and animal right activists and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) mercilessly forced us to stop whaling. The impact of the whaling ban has been tremendous. Many villagers lost their proud occupations and principal means of livelihood, and wounds and scars were made in the heart of many men and women. (S. Hamanaka, 1994). 

Tim McCluskey, a Republican from District 2 said he has seen cruel treatment of animals in the past, and it can turn into a vicious animal. Bob Simmons, a Republican Incumbent from District 2, said he would favor such legislation saying it should go hand-in-hand with the proper education of animal owners. Steve Wilson, another Republican from District 2, said it is time to re-write ordinances on this issue (Shaum, J., 2014).

The Humane Society’s Public Policy Series, Animal Studies Repository for International Animal Law, with a Concentration on Latin America, Asia, and Africa written by Neil Trent, introduces us to the many challenges that exist today when dealing with various cultures and traditions when it comes to animal treatment. In many of these countries, there is little concern for the animals because so many people are struggling to survive themselves (Trent et al.).

The practice of consuming dog meat has historically been and continues to be widespread throughout Asia (China, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, India), Africa (Nigeria), Arctic and Antarctic, Switzerland and it is also one that is culturally defended by many.

The controversy over the killing of animals in the Chinese markets of San Francisco’s Chinatown illustrates how most Americans’ views toward animals have changed in the last two centuries. Up until the early 1800s, animals had been viewed as unfeeling property, and their only purpose in life was to provide humans needed food, labor, and clothing. Towards the end of the twentieth century, many Americans came to believe that animals could feel pain and suffered from inhumane treatment. (Roleff, T., et al., 1999).

According to the article American Pet Meat Trade – Exposed, by Michele Brown, current    U. S. laws state that it is “illegal for anyone to kill and sell dog or cat meat” commercially (Brown, M., 2015). Unless a statute requires that the neglect be malicious, it does not matter that someone accused of neglecting an animal did not intend to be cruel. Under most statutes, it is enough that someone knowingly neglected animals (Randolph, M., n.d).

Heiman Wertheim researched the effects of eating dog meat in the unregulated dog meat industry. In his report, Furious Rabies after an Atypical Exposure he found that the people who were preparing and killing the dogs were being infected with the rabies virus and, in turn, infecting those ingesting the meal (Wertheim, 2009). An estimated 31, 000 people die per year in Asia from rabies, and that number is climbing (Wertheim, 2009).

According to the article The Cost of Canine Rabies on Four Continents, the economic impact of canine rabies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa in regards to the indirect and direct costs of post-exposure prophylaxis to rabies and rabies diagnostic testing were also accounted for. The article accounted for the uncertainty related to the parameter values using a Monte Carlo simulation, estimating that the global burden of canine rabies is approximately $124 billion annually (Anderson, A., et. al, 2015).

While some laws inside and outside the United States have proven to be helpful in developing a standard, others have proven to be ineffective. The tension between the outdated treatment of animals in the United States and overseas and the ever increasing pressure to treat an animal as a sentient being will only increase as science and technology reveal the complexity of the animal species.

The laws and regulations must be changed to recognize that all animals are sentient creatures deserving of greater protection. Current federal and state laws within the United States and in those countries that have little in the way of animal welfare laws should be updated and made enforceable by local police.

Correcting, updating and educating everyone, from those in government positions, the everyday citizen, the shop owners, farmers and those who are working toward the betterment of animal welfare is needed to ensure a better future for animals across the globe. To do this, we must work together and learn about the cultural and religious differences of not only our country but of other nations as well.

The true underlying issue is the inhumane and brutal treatment that we as humans unleash on animals who look to us for care, shelter, and protection.

Works Cited

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