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United Kingdom (UK) - Animal Welfare and Cultural Issues

In the United Kingdom, pets are considered very important. A person who decides to adopt a dog, cat or other pet tends to have a close and loving relationship with the animal. In general animals are treated well, however there can sometimes be issues with animal welfare. Other issues include the testing of medicines and cosmetics on animals prior to human consumption. There is a general social awareness that using animals for testing is harmful, however there is also a consensus that it may be acceptable to test on animals for medical purposes. Using animals for cosmetic or product testing is not seen as moral and is generally considered abhorrent in the United Kingdom.

Dog and horse racing are popular in the United Kingdom. Some of the most well-known include greyhound races in London, Nottingham and Brighton. Hunting was traditionally a means of survival in the UK and dogs were used as part of the hunt, however nowadays certain types of hunting are illegal and many people frown upon unnecessary hunting. Fox hunting is illegal in the UK.

In the past, many animals were kept as workers, but this situation has changed over the last couple of centuries, and working animals are now kept as pets. Several dog breeds are particularly well known as workers, such as German Shepherds who are often trained as police dogs, military dogs, guide dogs, and rescue dogs. Some of the smaller lap dogs can make excellent companions for those with ill health or mental disorders such as dementia. Dogs can be trained to be both companions and helpers, alerting owners to issues including health issues like allergies. Due to the immense power of smell certain dog breeds have, they are able to alert when allergies are starting to affect a person, so that they can go and take the appropriate medicine. The same is found with certain illnesses that require medicine such as diabetes.

Horses are also used for work as much as for entertainment and friendship. Cats are less frequently used as work animals, particularly now that there are more widely available commercial options to combat rodent problems, but for many they are dearly loved as companions and can be good company for those with illnesses or disabilities.

Veterinary Considerations

Like in the US, UK residents with pets are often concerned about their pets’ health. In recent years the number of available pet health insurance policies has risen significantly. Through companies like the Blue Cross, one can obtain insurance and also send a pet to a designated Blue Cross shelter if it needs to be rehomed.

Cultural Taboos

While the UK has very little sensitivity in terms of cultural taboos, there are certain things that are not considered socially acceptable beyond the controversy surrounding animal testing. For example, dog fights are no longer considered legal or moral.

There are no great taboos surrounding eating different types of animals, except that it is generally considered that any animals that are usually kept as pets should not be eaten. In other words, horse meat, whilst not illegal, is not considered an appropriate form of dietary meat.

Beef, pork, chicken, veal, mutton, venison, and other animal meats are acceptable.

Preventing Animal Cruelty

The main animal welfare organisation in the United Kingdom is the RSPCA. You can contact this organisation regarding concerns about pets, wildlife, horses, farm animals, and laboratory animals.


+44(0) 300 123 4999

Additional Charities and Welfare Organisations

The following are charities and welfare organisations that protect pets and animals, as well as helping them to find new homes when necessary.


Heifer International Charity

Dog Rescue

Charity Choice

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