Welfare of animals kept commercially

The welfare of animals kept commercially is safeguarded by rules on transportation, feed, housing and husbandry.

Rules on keeping animals commercially

Animals kept commercially include farm animals kept for the production of milk, meat, wool or fur, as well as animals kept for other purposes, like riding horses. To safeguard animal welfare, there are rules on the way the animals must be kept, including on the size of animal housing. Animals kept outdoors must be adequately protected against bad weather.

More information about animal welfare rules and regulations in the Netherlands can be found on the website of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

Supervision of businesses that keep animals commercially

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is responsible for supervising the welfare of animals kept for commercial purposes.

Supervision of slaughterhouses

The NVWA also supervises the slaughtering of animals. To ensure animals’ welfare, slaughtering must be done properly. The NVWA gets independent scientific advice on this from Wageningen UR Livestock Research faculty.

Animal welfare during religious slaughter

Animals must be stunned before they are slaughtered. An exception is made for religious slaughter following Jewish practice (kosher meat) and Muslim practice (halal meat). Special rules apply for religious slaughter where the animal is not pre-stunned. These have been agreed by the government, religious organisations and abattoirs.

To start with, the animal may only be slaughtered in an approved abattoir, by a specially trained butcher. The butcher also has to cut the animal’s throat in a certain way. These details can be found in the Voluntary agreement on religious slaughter without pre-stunning.

Fines for breaking rules on animal welfare during transport

Rules on the transport of live animals are intended to protect animal welfare. There are rules on journey and rest times, the professional competence of drivers and technical requirements for the vehicle. The NVWA can fine companies that break these rules. If that doesn’t help, the NVWA can suspend or withdraw the transport company’s licence.

Identification and registration of animals kept commercially

Owners must identify and register animals kept for commercial purposes, so if an infectious livestock disease breaks out, the animals and their place of origin can be quickly traced. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency is responsible for identifying and registering animals kept commercially.

Ban on battery hens

Battery cages have been banned in the Netherlands since 1 January 2012. Farmers who want to keep laying hens in cages must use colony systems. However, if they invested in battery cages before April 2008, farmers have until 1 January 2021 to buy colony cages. This is the substance of the Order laying down a transitional period for the ban on keeping laying hens in enriched cages. An enriched cage is a battery cage with:

  • at least 750cm2 of cage area per hen
  • perches
  • nesting boxes
  • litter.

Ban on mink farming

On 15 January 2013 the Prohibition of Fur Production Act came into force. The law will phase out mink farms. They may continue operating up to 31 December 2023, provided they meet certain conditions. But new farms cannot be established and existing production units may not be expanded.

Legal challenge to Prohibition of Fur Production Act

The Prohibition of Fur Production Act has been declared unlawful by the courts and has therefore been suspended. The government has appealed against the ruling. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to make a final decision. Until this happens, mink farmers who expand their businesses do so at their own risk.