These are the 67 best and worst countries for animal rights

We all know by now that where a person is born can pass on privilege – or vice versa. But what about animals? Their country of origin can make the difference between living a luxurious life using toys, a pet bed and even a wardrobe, or finishing on someone’s dinner plate.

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Matthew Nash, researcher and co-founder of insurance comparison website The Swiftest, researched animal rights in a survey of the 67 best and worst animal rights states. “I’ve always been interested in animal rights,” Nash said. “I believe animals are sensitive beings. As a lifelong pet owner, I have deeply attached to animals as many pet owners understand them. This combined with my curiosity and interest in international animal rights laws brought me to the point of wanting to conduct this in-depth research on a global scale.”

Related: California law seeks to improve conditions for pigs

Nash also wanted to look beyond pets like cats and dogs to a wider range of animals, including livestock and wildlife. The nine factors he examined to produce his Animal Rights Index reflect this. Full weight was given to acknowledgment of animal consciousness, acknowledgment of animal suffering, laws against animal cruelty, and a ban on the cultivation of national fur. Half-weight factors were supporting the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare, per capita meat consumption, percentage of protected areas, pesticide use per hectare of agricultural land, and Environmental Performance Index score.

A cat standing on a plaid blanket.

The winners

Luxembourg turned out to be the best place to be born in animal form. This small northwestern European country, which is bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, scored 519.68 points in the fastest animal rights index. The only place it stumbled was in meat consumption – lots of pork and blood sausage.

The United Kingdom, Austria, the Czech Republic and Belgium occupied the top five. All met the fully weighted factors in the index. But some had higher than average levels of meat consumption, less land designated as protected areas, and/or a higher percentage of pesticide use per hectare of farmland. Interestingly, European countries ranked in the top 25, with the exception of New Zealand which ranked 18th.

Nash is optimistic about improving conditions for the animals. “Over the past 20 years or so, more and more countries have come to realize that animals feel pain, not just possessions,” he said. “Many countries have enacted animal welfare laws. We still have a long way to go globally but we are slowly moving in the right direction overall.”

Baby pig white with black spots.


China was the clear loser with a score of 12.46 points. With some markets in China selling live frogs, and pre-chopped for convenience, it is clear that many citizens have different attitudes towards the animals. China also lacks any of the weighting factors entirely for study. The few points I scored were the relatively low meat consumption per capita.

The other losers were Vietnam 45.24 points, Iran 71.4, Azerbaijan 73.07 and Belarus 105.65 points. Belarus has at least a fur ban. Nash said he was surprised by the lack of protection for animals in some countries. “The lowest ten countries in my study had few laws regarding animal rights, while some had zero.”

A pile of live skinned frogs.

What about the United States?

The United States scored in the bottom half of the index, ranked 40, with a score of 319.45 points. On the plus side, the United States has laws against cruelty to animals, but it lacks a national ban on fur farming and does not recognize animal awareness at the federal level. It was also among the highest in meat consumption per capita and the lowest in percentage of preserves. The United States scored just below Israel and above Venezuela.

“As an American citizen, I was surprised to find America ranked 40th out of the 67 countries studied,” Nash said. “I was under the impression that we care a lot about animals as a country, which is partly true. In general, our pets are treated very well and this does not always apply to our livestock and wildlife.”

pet life

Swiftest’s Animal Rights Index is broader than that of cats and dogs in their homes. Nash said his next study will focus on dogs and will be called “the best and worst countries for dogs.” While the United States did not do well on the Animal Rights Index, Nash thinks American dogs enjoy it well.

“I have dogs in the United States and I know dogs are treated very well here,” he said. “If I were a dog, I would be happier in the States. America has great vets, plenty of parks and trails for running and fetching, and plenty of pet-friendly restaurants and hotels.” However, the leaderboard in his new study so far shows that the two best countries to have a dog are Italy and New Zealand, which score 26th and 18th respectively in the Animal Rights Index.

A dog standing on a bench in front of a large green plant.

To learn more about animal rights, suggested resources include The Swiftest ASPCA, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

through the fastest

Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat


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