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Updated: Nov 20, 2021

As a Member State of the European Union, Spain is obliged to meet animal welfare standards that are a relatively high standard globally. However, it has not always been quick to enforce those standards and its cultural history exempts some activities. Guest writer, Joshua Bickerstaff, will explore the main animal protection laws in Spain.

In the Animal Protection Index Spain is ranked C, along with France, India, and Mexico. By comparison, the United Kingdom, Austria and Sweden are ranked B. Morocco, Belarus and Vietnam are ranked as F.

EU legislation

Despite being a member state of the EU, Spain has not yet explicitly legislated to recognise animal sentience, even though animal sentience is recognised in EU law. Nevertheless, Spanish law recognises that EU law is sovereign over its own, so animal sentience is recognised in Spanish law.

Article 13 of the TFEU mandates that Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare of animals and recognises that they are sentient. However, Article 13 contains an important caveat that religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage should be respected. Spain makes use of these exemptions, such examples include bull fighting and bull running.

Compliance with EU legislation

Spain has failed on several occasions to comply with the Regulations and Directives on animal welfare and has been put on notice by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice.

For example, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in 2010 that Spain had failed to ensure that all zoos in Spain’s territories were licenced in accordance with Council Directive 1999/22/EC. Later in 2012, Spain was one of the 13 Member States to receive a letter from the European Commission requesting them to comply with Directives which required those countries to afford various welfare rights to chickens. An example of these welfare rights is a ban on “un-enriched” cages, commonly known as battery cages.

National legislation

Legislation known as Law 32/2007 was created to make Spanish law compliant with EU legislative requirements on animal farming. That law affords the basic levels of protection to animals that are set out in Council Directive 98/58/EC.

This includes provision of food, water and care for animals, as well as lighting, temperature and other environmental conditions. Breaches of Law 32/2007 can create liabilities of up to €100,000, the seizing of animals and closure of establishments. However, hunting, fishing wild animals and bullfighting are excluded from this Act by virtue of Article 14 (1) (c) and the First Additional Provision (2).

Another piece of Spanish animal law is Law 18/2003, which protects bullfighting as part of the cultural heritage of Spain that falls into the aforementioned exemptions of Article 13 of the TFEU. The desire to protect cultural traditions was demonstrated in 2016 when a 5-year ban on bullfighting in the Catalonian region was overturned by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

The Spanish Criminal Code makes it punishable by up to a year’s imprisonment to mistreat any animals, except non-captive wild animals and the aforementioned exemptions.

The future

Recently, there have been suggestions of a changing tide. The Spanish Government agreed in May 2021 to amend their national law to refer to animals as living things, where they had previously only been recognised as objects. This change was made in consideration of divorce law and domestic violence against humans and pets.

Getting advice

This post is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you require legal advice on animal protection laws, please contact

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