We all know by now that where a person is born can convey privilege — or the opposite. But what about animals? Their country of origin can make the difference between leading a posh life with toys, a pet bed and even a wardrobe, or winding up on somebody’s dinner plate.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
An alpaca sticking its head out.

Matthew Nash, researcher and co-founder of insurance comparison website The Swiftest, delved into animal rights in a survey of the 67 best and worst countries for animal rights. “I have always been interested in animal rights,” said Nash. “I believe animals are sentient beings. As a life-long pet owner, I have bonded deeply with animals as many pet owners can understand. This coupled 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 the broader spectrum of animals, including livestock and wildlife. The nine factors he examined to produce his animals’ rights index reflect that. Full weight was given to recognition of animal sentience, recognition of animal suffering, laws against animal cruelty and a national fur-farming ban. Half-weight factors were support for the universal declaration on animal welfare, meat consumption per capita, percentage of protected areas, pesticide usage per hectare of cropland and environmental performance index score.

A cat standing on a patterned blanket.

The winners

Turns out, Luxembourg is the best place to be born in animal form. This small northwest European country, bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, scored 519.68 on the Swiftest animal rights index. The only place it faltered was in meat consumption — too much ham and blood sausage.

The United Kingdom, Austria, Czechia and Belgium rounded out the top five. All met the fully weighted factors in the index. But some had higher than average levels of meat consumption, less land classified as protected areas, and/or a higher percentage of pesticide usage per hectare of cropland. Interestingly, European countries held all 25 of the top spots, except for New Zealand, which came in at number 18.

Nash is optimistic about improving conditions for animals. “Over the past twenty years or so, more countries are recognizing that animals feel pain, and are not just mere property,” 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.”

A white baby pig with black spots.

The losers

China was the clear loser, with a score of 12.46. With some markets in China selling live frogs, pre-skinned for convenience, it’s clear many citizens hold different attitudes toward animals. China also lacked any of the study’s fully weighted factors. The few points it scored were for having a relatively low meat consumption per capita.

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

A pile of skinned, live frogs.

What about the United States?

The United States scored in the lower half of the index, coming in at number 40 with 319.45 points. On the plus side, the U.S. has laws against animal cruelty, but lacks a national fur-farming ban and does not acknowledge animal sentience at the federal level. It also scored among the highest for meat consumption per person and the lowest in percentage of protected areas. The U.S. scored just below Israel and just above Venezuela.

“As a US Citizen, I was surprised to find America ranked 40th out of 67 countries studied,” said Nash. “I was under the impression we care greatly about animals as a country, which is partially true. Generally, our pets are treated very well which isn’t always the case for our livestock and wildlife.”

The life of pets

The Swiftest’s animal rights index is broader than the cats and dogs many people have in their houses. Nash said his next study will focus on canines and be called the “Best and Worst Countries for Dogs.” While the U.S. didn’t fare so well in the animal rights index, Nash thinks American dogs have it pretty good. 

“I have had dogs in the United States and know dogs are treated very well here,” he said. “If I were a dog, I would be most happy in the USA. America has great vets, lots of parks and trails to run and fetch, and plenty of pet friendly restaurants and hotels.” However, the frontrunners in his new study so far show that the two best countries to be a dog are Italy and New Zealand, which scored number 26 and 18 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, resources The Swiftest suggests include the ASPCA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Via The Swiftest

Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat