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Austrian citizens appear to be increasingly interested in animal welfare issues, and recent

estimates reveal that around 2% of the Austrian population reported following a vegan diet. 

Austria is an EU Member State, but its existing animal welfare legislation goes beyond that

in many other member states. This week guest writer Veronika Jancikova will provide an overview on the laws in Austria.

National Law

The basis of animal welfare legislation in all nine individual states of Austria is the Animal Welfare Act 2004, which defines animals as “fellow creatures” (in the main applicable to all vertebrates, cephalopods and decapod crustaceans) and implicitly recognises animal sentience and prohibits the infliction of unjustified pain, suffering or injury to an animal. This Act defines animals as “fellow creatures” as those other than humans

The government has offered its support for the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) and has incorporated the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) animal welfare standards into the country’s legislation.

Additionally, the Austrian Constitution was amended in 2013 to include the protection of life and well-being of non-human animals, adding that ‘the state protects the life and wellbeing of animals due to the special responsibility humans have for their fellow creatures’.

Animals used in farming

As an EU Member State, Austria must comply with EU law in relation to farmed animals.

The duty of care provisions of the Austrian Animal Welfare Act 2004 apply to farmed animals, in addition to the general anti-cruelty laws of EU law.

The Austrian government has also produced various other provisions in regards to the protection of animals in farming.

Secondary legislation made under the Animal Welfare Act 2004, The First Regulation on Keeping Animals 2004, sets minimum standards for the keeping of farmed animals and the Animal Welfare Monitoring Regulation 2004 ensures regular inspections are carried out to monitor compliance.

Austria has banned enriched cages for laying hens (in 2020) and has agreed to phase out the use of pig farrowing crates by 2033. Additionally, Austria banned long-distance (over 8 hours) international transport for live animals, and limits domestic transport of live animals within Austria to 4.5 hours. The production of foie gras has also been banned and decapod crustaceans also have legal protections, which is not common across the EU.

Relevant Authorities

Legal responsibility for animal welfare primarily lies within the Federal Ministry of Health. In addition, The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management works on animal welfare issues relating to farmed animals.

Each state is also required to appoint an Animal Protection Ombudsperson whose role is to act as a non-governmental representative, who acts independently in relation to animal welfare issues. .

What’s Next?

Whilst there are many ways in which Austria has led in the field of animal welfare legislation (as detailed above), the Austrian government still has the opportunity to lead by example, and to encourage other EU countries to enact detailed and robust animal protection legislation and policies which further protect animal welfare.

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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