Animal welfare

The veterinary profession is an animal welfare focused profession, with a responsibility to help protect the welfare of animals.

This is reflected in our most recent member research, where animal welfare emerged as a top priority issue for BVA members.

Promoting animal welfare to children

Despite the fact that over half of UK households own a pet, findings from the PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report show that, year-on-year, owners' awareness of their pets' welfare needs remains consistently low. With this in mind, the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition has launched a set of stickers to help children understand the 5 welfare needs of animals. 

Get involved: order a free pack of stickers by emailing

BVA animal welfare strategy

In recognition of the veterinary profession’s animal welfare focus, on 3 February 2016 President Sean Wensley launched the BVA animal welfare strategy (1.3 MB PDF) at our annual London Dinner.

The strategy, ‘Vets speaking up for animal welfare’, provides a framework to help the veterinary profession advocate good animal welfare outcomes for all animals, identifying six priority areas as building blocks for further action.

The six priority areas are:

  • Animal welfare assessment
  • Ethics
  • Legislation
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • International

Each priority area outlines its aim, evidence gathered through consultation, and actions for BVA. 

The Strategy’s ultimate priority is for BVA members and the veterinary profession to contribute to solutions for real-world animal welfare problems. Specifically, under Advocacy, it includes the following actions:

  • Work closely with BVA specialist divisions, members and committees, to develop a list of specific animal welfare problems on which to develop positions and proactively campaign
  • Work with BVA specialist divisions to develop a work programme to address the agreed priority welfare problems in each sector

In early 2017 a survey was sent to all species-specialist divisions of BVA, asking them to submit up to ten animal welfare problems in their sector, considering the number of animals affected, the duration of suffering and the severity of the problem for affected animals. We are grateful to the specialist divisions for their detailed and considered responses. Separately, a desk-based review of UK animal welfare problems was undertaken, using a combination of peer-reviewed welfare prioritisation surveys, reports by independent advisory bodies, and websites and strategy documents of national UK animal welfare charities. This review was not exhaustive but was intended to help give an overview within each area. The purpose of the survey and desk-based review was to develop a list of the UK animal welfare problems currently most commonly discussed and highlighted. The collated list, supported by BVA Council as a working document detailing the key UK animal welfare problems which the veterinary profession should take a leadership role in highlighting and addressing is available: Animal welfare problems by sector (PDF 247 KB)

Our position on animal welfare

It is recognised that sentient animals are capable of experiencing positive and negative feelings such as pain, frustration and contentment and so deserve consideration and respect. 

View our full policy position on animal welfare (121 KB PDF)

Definition of animal welfare

We believe that animal welfare relates to both the physical health and mental wellbeing of the animal, as encapsulated by the five welfare needs:

  • the need for a suitable environment
  • the need for a suitable diet
  • the need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • the need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Animal welfare legislation and guidance

Under UK animal welfare legislation there is a legal duty of care for all animal keepers to meet the five animal welfare needs (listed above) and avoid causing animals any unnecessary suffering.

The following resources are also available:

Our activity on animal welfare

We have developed position statements or guidance on the following animal welfare issues: