The Americas have a large population of farm animals, mostly for export. There are diverse production systems distributed over an extensive and varied geography, which hampers efforts to respond to the demands of the different markets. This study provides an overview of the elements influencing animal welfare implementation, such as the requirements of importing countries, the requirements of private agents, the demands of producers and manufacturers, quality promotion policies, the demands of the community, the recommendations of reference bodies and the results of applied research. To explore the level of animal welfare development in the countries of the region, a detailed case study was made of Chile, in addition to a survey of the Member Countries of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in the Americas. An analysis was made of progress with the issues considered by the OIE as priorities, namely humane slaughter for human consumption, transport and killing for disease control purposes.
Furthermore, the study considers various aspects of production which the OIE has not included up to now. It also explores the status of research and producer and consumer perceptions of the issue. The results reveal that the level of development and implementation of animal welfare differs from one country to another. While the adoption of animal welfare regulations certainly relates to all the above-mentioned aspects, the one which appears to have the most impact is the export of livestock products to certain markets. Although there is great interest in improving animal welfare conditions, this calls for the general characteristics of animal husbandry in the various countries to be taken into account. While some livestock production in the Americas follows world patterns, many countries still find it difficult to integrate good animal welfare practices, owing to specific geographical, social and cultural situations that are reflected in local livestock development rationales.