The question of animal welfare was first addressed in legislation in 1974. The requirements in this area were acknowledged specifically in an additional protocol attached to the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997). This "Protocol on protection and welfare of animals" lays down new rules for EU action in this area. It officially recognises that animals are sentient beings and obliges the European institutions to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing common policies.
European legislation in the field of animal welfare aims to save animals from any unnecessary suffering in three main areas: farming, transport and slaughter. It is essential to take measures in these areas not only for ethical and moral reasons, but also for health of the animals and the quality of foodstuffs. As part of a comprehensive strategy on food safety, other Community policies (agriculture, transport, internal market and research) are also required to take account of this necessity.
In cooperation with the competent authorities of the Member States, the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out on-the-spot checks to ensure compliance with Community legislation. Its role has grown since the enlargement of the EU to 27 Member States.