Name of organisation 

Norwegian Council for Animal Ethics




Scope/ Mission statement

Mandate: Stay informed and consider the principle ethical aspects of all types of animal husbandry and use, as well as the relationship with wildlife. Assess direct and indirect use of biotechnological principles on animals. Assess the ethical aspects of modern breeding and animal husbandry, including conservation of genetic diversity and consideration of wild biological resources. Assess the need for changes in existing legislation and management practices and, on this basis, advise the authorities regarding the supervision in the animal welfare area. Contribute to ongoing debate on animal ethical issues in society and conduct attitude-building work.

One leader, background varies One representative from aquatic research One representative from aquatic industry One representative from terrestrial research One representative from terrestrial industry One representative of the animal protection organisations One ethicist (prof. of philosophy) One secretary, scientist working the Norwegian Veterinary Institute (not formerly a Council member)

All members are appointed for four years at the time by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Some members, including the leader, can sit for several periods. The secretary – financed by the Norwegian Veterinary Institute – is not formally a Council member, but holds the only paid position associated with the council.

Working methods
Approximately 5 meetings each year and one field visit. Publish approximately 3-4 ethical advice about animal welfare each year. Give advice on suggested legislation about animal welfare. The Council receives inquiries from the Food Safety Authority, politicians, NGOs, the media, practicing veterinarians, students, private persons etc., but is independent and free to choose which topics to discuss and write statements about. Council members generally meet four times per year, including one excursion related to an ongoing statement. In addition, statement drafts etc. are circulated via mail. The Council hosts an annual Animal Ethics Conference in Oslo. Previous topics have included animal breeding, wolf management and fish welfare.

Contact details

Norwegian Council of Animal Ethics

Kristian Ellingsen-Dalskau

Norwegian Veterinary Institute

PO Box 750 Sentrum

N-0106 Oslo


+47 917 02 970


Link to website     


Publications (in Norwegian)

Some statements from the Norwegian Council on Animal Ethics

Childrens book about animal welfare and ethics (2011),

Verdt å vite – om dyras liv (Good to know - how animals live)

Some pages of the book can be seen at:


Ethical considerations of our keeping and breeding of horses (2011)


Predators and pasture animals (2010)


Ethical considerations of our keeping and breeding of dogs (2010)


Releasing reared fish into fresh water (2009)


Releasing fish into fresh water to increase the interest for angling is gaining popularity. In the Council’s opinion it is important that the water is evaluated regarding its nutritional resources and the occurrence of other fish before releasing. This information is important to secure the released fish food. The initial evaluation should be followed up with an investigation some months after release to gain information about the quality of the water as environment for the released fish.


Immunological neutering of pigs (2009)


Surgical neutering of male pigs is common in Norway, and is performed under anaesthesia and with post operative pain management. The neutering is performed by veterinarians. The Council was asked to evaluate immunological neutering since other alternatives to reduce boar taint are still lacking. The Council believes that immunological neutering may be an alternative to surgical neutering based on welfare evaluations. However, the animals must be constrained in acceptable ways during the injection. In addition, research should be performed to develop alternatives to surgical and immunological neutering.


1.3 Animal breeding in an ethical perspective (2009)


Modern breeding has to a large extent increased the production of meat, milk and eggs. In Norway, most breeding programs have included welfare parameters in addition to production parameters. In the Council’s opinion, poultry breeding has resulted in health and welfare problems and reduced genetic variation. Dog breeding mainly based on exterior characteristics has also resulted in specific health and welfare problems in many breeds. Habituation to humans is important especially in fur animals. In pigs, the breeding should increase focus on bone quality and maternal care. It is important to maintain genetic variation for future needs, and the breeding should secure good health, welfare and functions of the animals.


Statement on Hunting and wildlife management (2007/2008)


The Council for Animal Ethics has evaluated aspects of wildlife management and hunting from an animal welfare perspective. First, various reasons for hunting is described. The Council has not taken a stand on hunting per se, but on principal grounds a minority (of the council members) disapprove of hunting and fishing for leisure. Various forms of hunting (weapons, methods for hunting, trapping and fishing) and some approaches to public administration of hunting (seasonal limitations and controlled and limited harvesting) are discussed with respect to animal welfare. Commercial hunting (whale- and seal hunting) are not considered.

The Council believes that that one should have proper reason for killing an animal, irrespective of its species. Killing an animal for amusement only is not ethically acceptable. If the purpose is to use the game for meat or to limit the size of an animal population it is, nevertheless, essential that with respect to animal welfare hunting, trapping or fishing is performed in an ethical way. In situations where several alternatives exist, the most humane method should be chosen.

The Council believes that a theoretical proficiency test should be compulsory for all hunters, including those hunters who were exempted from the test because they were registered prior to its implementation. The compulsory course should convey good attitudes to hunting, and regard for animals, and it should contribute to increasing the hunters’ awareness of their responsibilities. The Council further believes that demands to the practical skills in the proficiency test should be increased, and that the number of attempts to pass the practical test should be limited. Recent research has indicated that the efficacy of ammunition is variable. The Council advises that more detailed documentation, than currently requested, should be demanded for ammunition that is sold in Norway.

The Council is concerned for the risk of wounding, especially during bird hunting. Because the help of a dog may be necessary to find a wounded bird, the Council is critical to the banning of dogs from some hunting terrains. The Council requests that the Authorities consider making the presence of a search dog/retrieving dog compulsory for all hunting.

Burrow hunting with a dog entails a relatively long period of stress for the fox/badger, and there is danger of injury to both the dog and the game. The Council consider the hunting form where the fox/badger is shot while eating bait is a more humane form of hunting. The Council holds the opinion that burrow hunting is unnecessary and that it should be prohibited. Burrow tests for hunting dogs should not be performed.

The Council calls for a tightening of the regulations concerning hunting traps. In order to be approved a killing trap should render the animal unconscious within seconds, and the animal should remain unconscious until it dies from its injuries. Of importance is also reporting and inspection of traps.

Public administration of game should be founded on considerations for the ecosystem. By this is meant that the protection of biological diversity, not economic profit, should be the primary driving force in decision making.


Hunting, catching and fishing of animals in captivity, and release of reared animals in to the wild for hunting/angling (2005)


The Council for Animal Ethics has, on request from the Norwegian Food Control Authorities, evaluated whether it is ethically acceptable to 1) arrange angling of reared fish and caught wild fish kept in nets, and hunting of mammals in captivity, and 2) to release reared animals (mammals, birds, and fish) into the wild for the purpose of hunting and catching.

The Council believes that the strain inflicted on an animal must be weighed against that benefit this has to humans. The use animals for recreational purposes or for excitement cannot be considered of vital importance to humans. Therefore, the Council has emphasised the consideration for the animals and animal welfare in this evaluation. The Council believes that animals should be kept in a manner that ensures good animal welfare and that they should be killed in an as humane way as possible.

The Council has evaluated animal welfare in the following situations: 1) catching of wild animals 2) captivity 3) hunting/fishing in closed systems 4) release of reared animals into the wild for the purpose of hunting/fishing. The Council expresses concern for animal welfare standards during catching and restitution of wild animals including fish that are caught in the wild and placed in cages, enclosures or nets. The concern includes conditions for the animals in captivity, especially when it is desirable that the animal maintains its natural fear of humans.

On principal ethical grounds the Council is sceptical to a practice where animals are released into confined areas for the purpose of hunting/fishing. The majority of the Council members believe that such practices can be acceptable if the total strain inflicted on the animals before, during and after the hunting/fishing is less than would be the case in the alternative use of the animal (se separate statement by the minority).

Businesses that offer angling in nets and enclosures do not rely on using fish caught in the wild because they can use farmed fish. The majority of Council members believe that, in general, angling in a closed system is acceptable in certain conditions: the fish must be provided with good living conditions including sufficient space, acceptable water quality, suitable feed and a good environment that is as close as possible the natural biotope. Equipment used for angling must be dimensioned in such a way that the fish may be brought to the surface without delay. Further, the fish must be rendered unconscious/killed immediately by a competent person after it is brought to the surface. In total, the fish must be subjected to less strain that would have been the case in a normal rearing and slaughter situation.

The Council believes that hunting in enclosures is unacceptable, and supports continuation of the present ban.

The Council further believes that from an animal welfare perspective it may be questionable to release reared game and fish into the wild. This also applies to situations where it seems ethically appropriate, such as for conservation of endangered species. Considerations of animal welfare should be thoroughly evaluated and accounted for in advance, and the rearing

environment must ensure good animal welfare and health as well as prepare the animals for a life in the free, including the winter season. This means that certain species must be ruled out and it sets high expectations to the standard of rearing conditions. The Council believes that it is doubtful whether recently released animals may be considered as wild. Hunting should be prohibited in the same period (same year) that the game are being cared for after release.


Neutering (2001)


The animal protection act is not consistent regarding permission to neuter animals. For some species neutering is prohibited, while other species may be neutered by lay people without anaesthesia. The Council for Animals Ethics believes that there is need for a thorough review of the legislation.

In their evaluation, the Council emphasises considerations for animal’s integrity and their possibility for a natural life. The Council believes that it is not acceptable to remove body organs from healthy, normal animals in order to make them better suited for production or as family pets. In general terms, neutering should be prohibited. However, it cannot be denied that in our keeping of animals it is necessary to put some limitations on the natural behaviour of animals. Many adult domestic animals never have the opportunity to express natural sexual behaviour. A general ban on neutering will not lead to a situation where most animals express natural sexual behaviour, but rather to a situation where their sexuality is controlled by other means. This control could be source of considerable frustration for the animals. There is no doubt that some animals may be granted greater freedom and possibly have a better existence after neutering, such as for example bulls that can be let out on pasture after castration. If the animal’s integrity and natural behaviour is emphasised in decision making, one may argue for neutering rather than against it in many situations.

The Council believes that it should be determined by law that in the decision to neuter an animal emphasis should be given to the individual animal’s integrity and its possibility for expressing natural behaviour. Permission to neuter should be given in situations where this is in the interest of the animal or that it has a minor effect on the animal’s natural behaviour and situation. In the Council’s opinion this will not open for routine neutering of dogs, but that the individual animal’s living situation must be considered before neutering is performed. Neutering for convenience should not be permitted. It should be an absolute requirement that without exception neutering of animals should be performed under anaesthesia and with post operative pain management.


Angling - "catch and release" (1998)

Summary A form of angling where fish, once caught, are then released, known as "catch and release", is prevalent in a number of countries. The authorities are now considering whether the concept should be introduced as a way of limiting catches in some Norwegian rivers. The "catch and release" concept is a new principle in natural resource management compared with the catch regulation measures adopted previously. "Catch and release" completely separates fishing from its original purpose, which was to procure food. In the view of the Council, it is important to support and develop attitudes that safeguard natural resources and manage them in a sustainable manner. This also entails a respect for life. There is little doubt that fish experience pain and stress in connection with fishing, regardless of whether they are killed or released. The difference is that a fish that is caught and released is subjected to this stress merely to satisfy people's need for recreation. The suffering and damage inflicted on the fish in this connection is disregarded. The Council does not find it ethically acceptable to use live animals in this way. If the fishing stock is so low that it will not tolerate harvesting the alternative in the view of the Council is not to fish. Against this background, the Council advises against the introduction of "catch and release" as a resource management measure in Norway.


For more information, see: