The Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) is a proposed inter-governmental agreement to recognise that animals are sentient, to prevent cruelty and reduce suffering, and to promote standards on the welfare of animals such as farm animals, companion animals, animals in scientific research, draught animals, wildlife animals and animals in recreation.

It is proposed that a UDAW be adopted by the United Nations. If endorsed by the UN (as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was) the UDAW would be a non-binding set of principles that acknowledges the importance of the sentience of animals and human responsibilities towards them. The principles were designed to encourage and enable national governments to introduce and improve animal protection legislation and initiatives.

It has been argued that a UDAW is consistent with, and could help secure the achievement of, the UN Millennium Development Goals.

This should not be confused with the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights (UDAR) or the Universal Charter of the Rights of Other Species (2000)

History

The UDAW was conceived by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which now acts as its Secretariat. It is supported by four main partners: the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Compassion in World Farming, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

In 2003, the Manila Conference on Animal Welfare was attended by 19 government delegations
with the European Council, United States and Saipan as observers. A foundation text for a
UDAW was agreed.

In 2005, the UDAW inter-governmental steering committee was formed and representatives of the governments of Kenya, India, Costa Rica, Czech Republic and the Republic of the Philippines agreed to champion the initiative. They lead a group of governments whose officials have stated support in the following years, including Australia, Cambodia, Fiji, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia, Tanzania, and the UK.

In 2007, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) decided to support a UDAW, as did the Commonwealth Veterinary Association (CVA) and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).
In August 2008, the national veterinary associations of Chile, New Zealand, the UK,the Philippines, Thailandand Colombia have all given public backing for a UDAW.

In April 2008, Eric Martlew MP put forward an early day motion in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom that “calls upon the Government to give its full and publicly-stated support for this initiative, including active support within the European Union and the United Nations.”

In 2011 a new draft was proposed, taking into account “feedback from UN Member states, international organizations and non-governmental organizations. It develops the earlier draft arising from the Manila conference on animal welfare (2003) and the Costa Rica draft (2005) which incorporated suggestions made by the Steering Committee.”