Public morals in private hands? : a study into the evolving path of farm animal welfare governance

C. Toschi Maciel

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Executive summary

The advancement of regulatory instruments providing for farm animal welfare measures has been marked by various political and regulatory constraints in both domestic and international settings.In an attempt to overcome some of these constraints, a number of innovative governance arrangements have been developed over the two last decades, such as the use of private standards.This thesis offers a critical assessment on how and to what extent the policy field of farm animals welfare has been affected by these innovative developments. The assessment provided in this thesis resulted from four independent (but inter-related) studies.

The first study consisted of a theoretical inquiry into the engagement of non-state actors in farm animal welfare policy making in Europe. This study sought to establish the extent to which the changes observed in Europe, specifically in the Netherlands, are consistentwith political modernization theory. This study confirmed that the engagement of non-state actors in farm animal welfare policy-makingin Europe corresponds to themodernization of governance practices, where a new collation of actors, policy discourses and rules come to the fore.

The second study consisted of an empirical investigation ofthe rise of farm animal welfare governance in Brazil. The main objective of this study was to gain insight into a development that remains largely unexplored in the current social science literature, that is, into the factors triggering policy change related to animal protection in developing countries. Data collected through 36 semi-structured interviews amongdifferent groups of Brazilian stakeholders suggested that the main factors leading to the rise of animal welfare governance in Brazil were related to Europe and the World OrganisationforAnimal Health (OIE). The insights gained fromthis exploratory empirical study helped produce an analytical framework for assessing how farm animal welfare measures spread across jurisdictions, which is further elaborated in the third phase of this doctoral research.

Accordingly, in the third study, an empirical and theoretical examination ofanimal welfare governance in the European Union-Brazildyad is performed with the objective of assessing theactors and mechanisms currently in place to advance farm animal welfare in bilateral and international relations. Several initiatives have been identified as useful in coordinating animal welfare measures between theEU and Brazil. The study nonetheless found that initiatives based on policy diffusion mechanisms were the most prominent.

The fourth study entailed a legal analysis ofthe relationship between the regulatory framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the advancement of animal welfare measures through private standards. The objective of this study was to determine the possibility thatprivate standards fall within the scope of WTO Member States’ obligations listedin Article 13 of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS). For that purpose, three fundamental factorsfor claims of breaches of Article 13 to be pursuedwere examined: (i) the applicability of the SPS Agreement to farm animal welfare measures; (ii) the scope of the term ‘non-governmental entities’; and (iii) the existence of factual evidence that a WTO Member has not taken reasonable measures to ensure that SPS disciplines are observed by non-governmental entities or that a WTO Member has encouraged non-governmental entities or have relied upon the services of non-governmental entities that are not SPScompliant. The conclusion drawn from this examination is that convincing legal arguments and factual evidence exist to pursue WTO disputes over the use of private farm animal welfare standards.

Based on all the above findings, the overall assessment of this thesis regarding the evolving path of farm animal welfare governance is four-fold.First, the policy field of farm animal welfare has significantly advanced in and between Europe and Brazil through a variety of non-legislative instruments, such as intergovernmental technical cooperation, capacity building programmes and private standards. Second, the political and regulatory implications of this research regarding the use of private standards in animal welfare indicate that a cautious approach to the use of this policy instrument is required. Third, the policy field of animal welfare has greatly benefited from the entry of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), especially in engaging governments and industries in developing countriesin this area. Finally, a reverse shift (that is, a shift away from private governance and towards public governance) is likely to occur as the path of farm animal welfare policy evolves internationally.


Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Mol, Arthur, Promotor
  • van der Meulen, Bernd, Promotor
  • Bock, Bettina, Co-promotor
Award date2 Jun 2015
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462572799
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2015


  • animal welfare
  • livestock
  • animal husbandry
  • government policy
  • european union
  • brazil
  • governance
  • netherlands
  • legal systems


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