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Animal welfare matters: see how the US treats animals



Our Animal Protection Index (API), which ranks countries on their laws protecting animals, exposes the drastic need for change in the United States.

According to our report, the United States continues to lag behind many other countries in its protections for farmed animals and wildlife — being awarded a D grade in an updated global ranking.

How does the United States rank?

For the API, we assessed the animal welfare policies and legislation of 50 countries and ranked them from A (the highest score) to G. 

Shockingly, no country obtained an ‘A’ grade and the US fell short again, ranking below Mexico and India. The United States has not increased its D ranking since 2014.

The US continues to fail animals 

The Animal Protection Index (API) finds that US animal protection laws are inconsistent, inadequate, and, at times, contradictory at the state level, where most animal welfare laws originate and lack transparency and accountability at the federal level. 

Our report makes several recommendations for how authorities can strengthen protections for farmed animals and wildlife, such as removing exceptions for certain species, and increasing enforcement mechanisms. If animal welfare laws are not improved, we face the potential for disease outbreaks and continued poor conditions for animals. Alesia Soltanpanah, Executive Director World Animal Protection, US said: “This index should be a wake-up call for our political leaders with the message that we are failing to protect the vast majority of animals in this country.”

The United States grade has not increased since the first edition of the Animal Protection Index in 2014. The second edition of the Animal Protection Index (API) shows that based on our ratings scale the US, again, receives a D for its approach to ensuring animal protections. Among the major issues impacting this rating: 

  • The federal government’s key legislations limit which animal species and groups are covered 
  • Most animal protection legislation is created at the state, not federal, level, giving rise to inconsistencies in enforcement
  • The number of exemptions or exceptions allowed in both federal and state legislation means that most animals and welfare-impacting practices are not covered.
  • Lack of transparency regarding animal welfare enforcement reports and audits mean there is little accountability for authorities

Since the first report six years ago, the US has enacted several pieces of legislation at state and federal levels that have been positive for animal welfare, yet none of these advancements have warranted an improvement in the US grade.

State legislation that positively impacted animals since 2014 include:

  • California passed Proposition 12 in November 2018, considered one of the most progressive animal welfare laws in the world. which sets such specific space requirements for animals raised for food that it effectively bans cages for egg-laying hens, sow stalls, and calf crates. 
  • California also passed the Circus Cruelty Prevention Act in May 2019, outlawing the use of wild animals in circuses.
  • In October 2019 Calfornia became the first state to ban the sale of fur (beginning January 1, 2023).
  • California and Maryland both passed legislation prohibiting pet stores from sourcing animals from commercial breeders. 
  • Massachusetts passed two Protect Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) Acts: PAWS of 2014 established an animal welfare task force; and PAWS II aims to improve cross-reporting of animal cruelty to law enforcement agencies, prevent the automatic euthanasia of animals confiscated from the animal fighting industry, and modernize state prohibitions against animal sexual abuse. 
  • Michigan passed legislation in November 2019 to mandate cage-free conditions for egg-laying hens and prohibit the sale of non-cage-free eggs by December 2024. 

At the same time, federal officials have made several decisions that have weakened protections for animals. 

“While there have been some notable legislative improvements in recent years, such as the PACT Act that makes intentional acts of animal cruelty federal crimes, there are too many loopholes and exceptions for many species. This means that the vast majority of animal suffering goes unaddressed,” Soltanpanah continued.

Some federal rollbacks which weakened animal welfare protections include:

  • Granting permits to trophy hunters to kill endangered species and bring them back to the United States. 
  • Lifting environmental protections on national parks and monuments which provide habitats for wildlife, and allowing mining and drilling in formerly protected lands.
  • Rolling back protections for species categorized as "threatened" and allowing economic factors to influence which species are classified as "endangered". 
  • Overturning a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges and proposing to overturn a ban on extreme sport-hunting practices such as baiting grizzly bears.
  • Allowing poultry processing facilities to have faster line speeds, which increases risks to chickens and workers.
  • Rolling back environmental protection laws under the Clean Water Act which reduces environmental oversight of factory farms and threatens wildlife.
Snake in captivity in Bali - World Animal Protection - Coronavirus

Coronavirus and other concerns

Severe animal welfare concerns from intensive farming, wildlife markets, and associated trade are all proven threats of disease outbreak, such as the most recent global epidemic, coronavirus. 

“The longer poor animal welfare practices continue, the greater the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks becoming more frequent, including but not limited to salmonella, avian influenza and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic currently happening worldwide,” Soltanpanah said.

“Improving conditions for farmed animals and ending the commercial trade in wild animals, will not only guarantee the welfare of billions of animals but could also help prevent the next big human health hazard.”

“World Animal Protection is calling on federal and local governments to improve animal welfare standards and enshrine animal protection into current and critical debates on food, public health, and sustainable development.”

Help us create a better world for animals. Donate today.

To download a copy of the report, click here.

Piglet on a factory farm


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