Into the Void: International Law and the Protection of Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is not currently regulated by a single, comprehensive international law instrument. This article considers prevailing frameworks in international law that address animal welfare in some way, but by themselves do not meet the hallmarks of an effective global protection regime, including comprehensiveness and enforceability. Emerging frameworks that might fill the gap in global animal welfare protection include a universal declaration on animal welfare, the entrenchment of World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) animal health standards and an international convention for the protection of animal welfare. While the prospects of any of these models succeeding in the short term are uncertain at best, the challenge now is to think carefully about what legal form an international framework for animal protection might take.

Currently there is a significant gap in the international protection of animal welfare. Prevailing international frameworks with implications for animal welfare lack comprehensiveness and enforceability.
New frameworks for global animal protection are being developed, but may still fall short of providing a comprehensive and enforceable global protection regime.
While the short-term prospects for the adoption of a new international framework are not good, now is the time for citizens and their political representatives, policy makers, lawyers and scientists to think carefully about the form international protection should take, so as to be ready when a suitable political opportunity for advancement arises.