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Aarhus University becomes an international reference centre for animal welfare

Together with two research institutions in Germany and the Netherlands, researchers from the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University will run the first EU Reference Centre for Animal Welfare. Among a strong competition field of European consortia, the department landed the assignment.

[Translate to English:] Aarhus Universitet har en årelang erfaring med at levere forskningsbaseret rådgivning om dyrevelfærd til myndighederne. Foto: Colourbox

During the next five years, Danish researchers will be instrumental in improving control of animal welfare in European pig herds. Last week, the EU Commission appointed a consortium consisting of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institutt in Germany and the Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University. Together these institutions will run a Reference Centre for Animal Welfare and provide research-based policy support to the authorities in the 28 member countries.

- Denmark has a long practical as well as research-based tradition for applying systematic work efforts to improve animal welfare and develop welfare control in Danish herds. The EU appointment of Denmark as responsible for running the reference centre once again emphasizes the fact that it is not simply smooth talking when the industry, research institutions and authorities meet, says Danish Minister of Environment and Food, Esben Lunde Larsen in a press statement from the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark.  

Via the agreement with the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, Aarhus University has a long tradition of providing research-based policy support to the authorities on animal welfare. Together with colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands, researchers from the Department of Animal Science will now develop knowledge and tools to help improve animal welfare, particularly within the European pig industry.

Formation of international networks

Professor Jan Tind Sørensen and Professor Lene Juul Pedersen, Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University, are the Danish key partners in the project and they look forward to the cooperation. One of the first tasks will be the formation of a network of national contact points (NCP’s) representing European universities and research institutions that provide research-based policy support to authorities. Next, the new centre will identify the NCP’s needs for tools to be used in animal welfare inspection.

- An actual example is the fact that the EU Commission has requested all member countries to prepare an action plan for reduced tail docking. This particular area requires the development of concrete tools to facilitate the implementation of national efforts in the individual member countries, explains Lene Juul Pedersen.

Inspector training

Another centre task will be to ensure that the inspectors to be in charge of controls are well educated and possess the necessary scientific expertise.

- We are already listed as organizers of EU BetterTrainingforSaferFood courses in animal welfare for authorities in EU member countries, and we teach a Master programme in animal welfare assessment targeted towards e.g. animal welfare inspectors employed by the authorities, veterinary surgeons, teachers at agricultural colleges as well as advisors in the livestock sector, says Jan Tind Sørensen. Experiences achieved in this area will be very useful in the reference centre.

- We also recognize significant perspectives in a structured cooperation with other European researchers, who provide research-based policy support to national authorities. The new cooperation relations will strengthen our opportunities of participating in EU research programmes, says Jan Tind Sørensen.


Appointed for a period of five years, the Reference Centre for Animal Welfare is a pilot centre led by Wageningen University &Research. It is a centre without walls, and work efforts will take place at the universities in the individual countries. In addition, the Centre will examine the possibilities of expanding the areas of responsibility for a joint European centre for animal welfare. The centre expect to have an annual budget of 350,000 Euros. Researchers from the three countries will have their first meeting this spring.

Further information

Jan Tind Sørensen. E-mail: jantind.sorensen@anis.au.dk. Tel.: 20 78 33 43

Lene Juul Pedersen. E-mail: lene.juulpedersen@anis.au.dk. Tel.: 51 16 28 22