Animal Protection Index (API)
Legislation/Policy Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Animals & Society Institute
July 2021

Between 2007-2013, the proposed Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) sought official adoption by the UN. As of this writing, it appears that this mission may have dissolved and individual NGOs have instead adopted the UDAW framework into their own policies.

The World Animal Protection created the Animal Protection Index (API) as a tool to understand how 50 countries are performing with animal welfare legislation and animal protection standards. This tool allows interested parties to assess individual countries from a comparative perspective but the API was also designed to hold countries accountable. A precursory glance at the data for the year 2020 makes it clear that every country has significant work to do. The fact that no country received an overall A score makes this all the more evident.

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The following table offers a summarized glance at how four major countries compare. Each of these countries received unique scores on the API. These countries – UK (B), India (C), USA (D), China (E) – were selected for their similar industrialized economies and presence on the world stage.

Animal Protection Index

As the table illustrates, while the UK scored an overall higher score, their performance is inconsistent. Recreation animal legislation and farm animal legislation are on par with the other compared countries. Recreation and farm animal protection are the weakest areas across the board.

On the one hand, this comparative perspective can help highlight individual country performance. On the other, it makes clear that animal protection is undeniably an international challenge that will require collective efforts. Between 2007-2013, the proposed Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) sought official adoption by the UN. As of this writing, it appears that this mission may have dissolved and individual NGOs have instead adopted the UDAW framework into their own policies. For example, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and World Animal Protection have incorporated the fundamentals of UDAW into their organizational efforts.

Back in 2013, Marc Bekoff, Ph.D also made the case for a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience, a distinct nod to the UDAW. A quick glance back to the API table above reminds us that the average score for formal acknowledgement of animal sentience in the year 2020 across the four sampled countries is a D. The average score for this metric across all 50 countries that were evaluated by the API is also a D. Colombia was the only country awarded an A score for inclusion of animal sentience in legislation.

In Dr. Bekoff’s words, “We need to stop pretending we don't know if other animals are sentient. We also need to accept that we know what they want and need. Their minds aren't as private as some claim them to be. Surely, we might miss out on some of the nitty-gritty details but it is safe to say that other animals want to live in peace and safety and absent fear, pain, and suffering, just as we do.”


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