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Mainstreaming animal welfare in sustainable development: a policy agenda

Developments in science and ethics show that safeguarding animal welfare is an important goal in its own right. Nevertheless, animal welfare remains a marginal issue in sustainable development governance. In 2015, the world’s governments adopted a universal development agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which expresses a desire for a world in which humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected.

Cleo Verkuijl, Jeff Sebo, Ploy Achakulwisut, Mairon G. Bastos Lima, Jonathan Green / Published on 18 May 2022
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Verkuijl, C., Sebo, J., Hötzel, M. J., Visseren-Hamakers, I., Achakulwisut, P., Bastos Lima, M. and Green, J. (2022). Mainstreaming animal welfare in sustainable development: a policy agenda. Stockholm+50 background paper series. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm.

So far, none of the 2030 Agenda’s 169 targets references the welfare of individual animals. Fifty years after the adoption of the Stockholm Declaration, we argue that the lack of consideration of animal welfare in sustainable development policymaking has been an important oversight. Our current treatment of animals affects our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and both human-induced environmental challenges and our interventions to mitigate or adapt to them often affect animals.

Verkuijl, Sebo, Hötzel, Visseren-Hamakers, Achakulwisut, Bastos Lima and Green identify three key pathways for mainstreaming animal welfare into sustainable development policymaking: (a) considering animal welfare in international policy and legal instruments; (b) improving national and local policies to more fully reflect animal welfare concerns while ensuring other social, health and economic goals are met; and (c) paving the way for additional action through improved knowledge, capacity building, representation and international cooperation.

Mainstreaming animal welfare concerns into sustainable development policy will require transformative changes to key industries, practices and values, and it may encounter resistance from interest groups. It will require innovative thinking to maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs between different areas of sustainable development policy, including through just transition planning and support. Nevertheless, giving more consideration to animal welfare in sustainable development is an opportunity to implement a wide range of policies that benefit humans and non-human animals alike.

This paper is part of a series that supports the Stockholm+50: Unlocking a better future report.


Download the background paper / PDF / 2 MB

SEI authors

Cleo Verkuijl
Cleo Verkuijl



Jeff Sebo

Ploy Achakulwisut

Research Fellow


Mairon G. Bastos Lima
Mairon G. Bastos Lima

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Jonathan Green profile picture
Jonathan Green

Senior Researcher

SEI York

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