Respect Captive Wild Animals

Seeking higher welfare standards for wild animals in captivity

Recognising that the animal protection and welfare policy in the European Community currently fails to appropriately address the welfare problems associated with keeping wild animals in captivity, ENDCAP has launched the EU-wide campaign “Respect Captive Wild Animals”, which seeks to secure greater protection of these animals. This includes the need to broaden the scope of the proposed European Framework Animal Welfare Law (as proposed within the EU Animal Welfare Strategy 2012-2015) and associated initiatives. This does not evade the fact that ultimately ENDCAP members share the position that wild animals should not be exploited for human entertainment.

Understanding Animal Welfare

Animal welfare refers to the state of an animal. An animal is in a reasonable state of welfare if it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress. Other terms such as animal care, husbandry or humane treatment refer to how an animal is looked after. Reasonable animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter/euthanasia. Animals in a captive environment rely on the care and ability of humans to provide them with what they need to maintain their welfare.

Appropriate animal care

In order to encourage best practice in animal welfare, ENDCAP advocates that standards should be based upon the principles of the Five Freedoms (developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC 1979), together with the Welfare Quality® criteria.
The Welfare Quality® criteria were originally developed for farmed domestic animals, however, with some simple modification (adding three criteria), and with reference to the Five Freedoms, these criteria and principals are believed to be compatible with all kinds of animals, irrespective of the circumstances under which they are kept.  Application of and adherence to the below criteria, will go some way to safeguarding the welfare of the animal and to providing a state of well-being and dignity.

FIVE FREEDOMS (the principles) WELFARE QUALITY ® (criteria)
Good feeding 1. Absence of prolonged hunger
2. Absence of prolonged thirst
Good housing 3. Comfort while resting
4. Thermal comfort
5. Ease of movement
Good health 6. Absence of injuries
7. Absence of disease
8. Absence of pain induced by inappropriate management procedures
Appropriate behaviour 9. Expression of social behaviours
10. Expression of natural behaviours
11. Good human-animal relationship
12. Positive emotional state
Protection from fear and distress 13. Absence of general fear/distress/apathy
14. Ability to seek privacy/refuge
15. Absence of surgical or physical modification of the skin, tissues, teeth or bone structure other than for the purposes of genuine medical treatment/ manipulation/sedation


Recognising this general approach to providing appropriate animal care, irrespective of the species or its use, ENDCAP advocates that the proposed European Framework Animal Welfare law, the European Network of Reference Centres and all other EU animal welfare policy should be applicable to wild animals in captivity: upholding high standards in their protection and care.

“Through my working on animal welfare issues at EU level, I have been made very aware of the poor conditions endured by animals in some European zoos, and, whilst I would prefer to see wild animals in the wild and not in captivity, I support any initiative that calls for higher standards in animal care. As a Parliamentarian, I join my colleagues in expressing the need to provide stronger protection to these animals through EU policy, such as the EU Animal Welfare Strategy. Without it I fear that many wild animals in captivity will continue to suffer in inadequate conditions. We need to ensure better welfare standards for all animals in our care.”

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England


Wild animals in captivity

Application of the above principles and criteria only provide an animal with its basic living requirements. Each individual species has additional, often unique, requirements to ensure good welfare and an opportunity to express innate behaviours. Therefore, good welfare practice must take into account the species-specific needs of animals.
Few scientific-based animal husbandry standards, or animal welfare indicators, have been developed. Those that are available vary significantly in their criteria. For an insight into species-specific needs, please refer to Further Information below.

Animal: A multicellular organism of the Kingdom Animalia, including all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.
Wild Animal: An animal that is not normally or historically domesticated in the specific country.
Domesticated Animal: An animal of a species or breed that has been kept and selectively modified over a significant number of generations in captivity to enhance or eliminate genetic, morphological, physiological or behavioural characteristics, to the extent that such species or breed has become adapted to a life intimately associated with humans.
Welfare quality ®: a project funded by the European Commission, focusing on integration of animal welfare in the food quality chain: from public concern to improved welfare and transparent quality. The project aims to accommodate societal concerns and market demands, to develop reliable on-farm monitoring systems, product information systems, and practical species-specific strategies to improve animal welfare standards in Europe. (Adapted from Welfare Quality website,

It is broadly recognised that animal welfare legislation is poorly implemented and enforced throughout the EU.

Identified reasons include:

  • Lack of common knowledge and understanding of animal welfare science and the basic needs of animals;
  • Poor understanding of animal welfare in the context of the implementation and enforcement of animal protection law;
  • Veterinarians lacking the education and training in animal welfare and its application;
  • Animal owners and keepers lacking knowledge of the species-specific welfare requirements of the animal.

Share this