Scottish Animal Welfare Commission: workplan – July 2023

Plan of work for the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission.

Ongoing projects

Animal sentience

A Sentience Sub-Committee was set up at the end of 2021, in order to assist the other members of SAWC in filtering and prioritising issues relating to animal sentience. Ongoing work includes the development of an ethics and justice framework, drawing on recent Aquaculture Working Group work, and assembling evidence in relation to fish sentience. 

Responsible cat ownership

A working group was set up at the beginning of 2023 to consider the welfare issues relating to domestic cat ownership, including of microchipping, neutering, vaccination, feral cat controls and the impacts on wildcat populations.

Wildlife welfare

Scottish Government has a Programme for Government commitment to publish ‘a strategic approach to wildlife management that puts animal welfare at the centre while protecting public health and economic and conservation considerations.” SAWC is engaging with NatureScot on their wildlife welfare principles which forms part of this commitment. From May 2023, the working group will also consider the issue of translocation of wild animal species.


Investigate and make recommendations on welfare issues associated with the management and control of wild beavers in Scotland. Activity was paused while a judicial review, considering the issue of licences for killing beavers, was underway – this concluded in October 2021, at which point members reconvened to continue their evidence gathering process.


Report on beaver welfare was published on 13 December 2022.


Identify potential welfare issues and prepare a report on the areas of initial focus – salmon farming and acoustic deterrent devices. A lengthy-evidence gathering process has been undertaken, including a field visit to a salmon farm, surveying and interviewing of a range of industry experts, and conducting an ethical review. The report on acoustic deterrent devices in salmon farming was published on 6 March 2023.  The working group is now focusing on the welfare issues surrounding cleaner fish.


Report on acoustic deterrent devices in salmon farming was published on 6 March 2023. 

Dog training

Review and provide an initial report on the welfare issues associated with the use of electronic collars on dogs and consider whether there should be licensing of these service providers. Evidence gathering included engagement with a range of stakeholders and a review of the available literature on the issue. The report was published on 11 April 2023. The working group is now discussing next steps regarding other dog training devices.


Report on electronic collar use in dog training was published on 11 April 2023. 

Greyhound racing

Recent petitions on banning racing greyhounds increased awareness of potential welfare concerns. In May 2022 SAWC responded to an enquiry by the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee, with an opinion on the welfare of greyhound racing in Scotland and on unlicensed greyhound racing tracks operating in Scotland

SAWC formed a working group to undertake more research and fully consider the available evidence, in order to reach a balanced conclusion.


Report on the welfare of greyhounds used for racing in Scotland was published on 28 February 2023.

Local authorities handling animal welfare issues

Consider reviewing how different authorities deal with animal welfare issues, whether there are experts who can assess welfare and whether any future recommendations could feasibly be met by the local authorities.

Other potential areas in medium term

Wildcat reintroduction

Opportunity for SAWC to review policy in this area or provide an opinion on welfare issues at some point.

Abattoir provision and opportunities for mobile slaughterhouses

From a Scottish perspective to review the welfare issues around numbers of abattoirs and their geographical distribution, slaughter journey times and the welfare of animals killed in mobile slaughterhouses.

Performing animals and animal encounters (potentially including therapy animals)

Currently stakeholder engagement activities in this area, but SAWC could provide an opinion on welfare of animals used under these different types of management, including the lives of these animals when not on exhibit/in use.

Potential areas over a longer time scale

Codes of practice vs. industry guidance

Provide an opinion on how information can be best disseminated and its impact in practice. Role for SAWC in reviewing revised or new versions of these (alongside activities of AWC), particularly those falling under areas of particular Scottish concerns such as aquaculture.


Projects involving release of wild, domestic or semi-domestic animals into a wild or partly wild setting raise various welfare concerns. SAWC would review these issues and provide best practice/policy advice – this could potentially follow on from current work looking at snaring.

Welfare of horses kept for racing

Currently no plans to look at this specifically, but may respond in future if specific questions in this area.

Other annual commitments

  • annual Report 2022 - 2023
  • annual review of Scottish Government activity affecting the welfare of animals, as sentient beings
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