Wild Animal Welfare in International Law: The Present Position and the Scope for Development

Wild animal welfare is a global subject and yet international regulation and policy dealing with welfare is sparse and in places idiosyncratic. Nevertheless, there is potential to develop a comprehensive and coherent international wild animal welfare regime in law and policy derived from the propositions in the World Charter for Nature that life has intrinsic value and deserves ‘respect’. Beyond that, the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species establishes a principle – in the context of international trade but with potential for wider application – that welfare protection should be extended to wild animals under human control. However, further development is more problematic. Although the International Whaling Commission to a minor extent regulates the welfare of hunted whales, there is no universal approach to extending welfare to freely living animals in international law and policy. This article analyses this background and goes on to recommend a way in which international policy may overcome the challenges of polarised debate and the gulf between moral relativism and moral universalism to develop the foundations of a comprehensive welfare regime at the international level.

We need to clarify existing norms of wild animal welfare protection in international law and policy.
A coherent and comprehensive scheme of wild animal welfare regulation must be evolved.
A soft law instrument can be used to overcome polarised discourse in animal protection values.
We must ensure that all stakeholders are involved in any negotiation of the foundation instrument to build an international regime of wild animal welfare protection.