Animal Welfare Commission

New body to protect animals.

The Chair of Scotland’s first ever independent Animal Welfare Commission has been confirmed.

Announced as part of the Programme for Government, the Commission will focus on protecting wild and companion animals while also providing scientific and ethical advice to government.

The Commission, which will be chaired by Professor Cathy Dwyer will specifically look at:

  • how the welfare needs of sentient animals are being met by devolved policy
  • possible legislative and non-legislative routes to further protect the welfare of sentient animals
  • the research requirements to provide an evidence base for future policy development

Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said:

“Animal welfare is a subject that I feel very passionately about so I’m delighted to announce Professor Dwyer as the first Chair of the independent Scottish Animal Welfare Commission who will bring a depth of expertise and knowledge to the Commission.

“I have tasked the Commission to look specifically at how our current policies take account of the welfare needs of sentient animals, what improvements could be made and report back to me with their conclusions.

“I’m proud of Scotland’s high standards when it comes to animal welfare and believe this step will strengthen those standards even further. I look forward to working with Professor Dwyer to ensure we have the highest standards of welfare for our animals.”

Professor Cathy Dwyer from Scotland’s Rural College said:

“I am deeply honoured to accept the position of Chair of the Scottish Animal Welfare Committee and am excited about the opportunity to make a difference to the welfare of all Scotland’s animals. I am delighted that the Scottish Government recognise the importance of animal welfare for wildlife, farmed and companion animals and that acceptance of animal sentience will be central to government policy relating to animals. After 25 years working in research and education in animal welfare, I am looking forward to the new challenges ahead.”


A total of 11 commissioners will be recruited by open advertisement and interview to sit on the Commission in an individual capacity and not as representatives of particular groups or organisations.

Professor Cathy Dwyer is Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Scotland’s Rural College and sits as a scientific advisor on various international animal welfare bodies, including the EU Animal Welfare Platform, the Global Animal Partnership, and Dog’s Trust.

The Commission will only consider areas that are within the normal current remit of the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee and the UK Zoo Expert Committee where these relate to the overall responsibility of the Scottish Government.

A sentient animal is one that can experience feelings such as pain or pleasure.


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