RSPCA Shop Next Gen Education
Colour mode


There is no doubt that the UK public loves animals. More than two-thirds (69%) of people in 2023 (and the same in 2022) define themselves as animal lovers. This represents an estimated 36.7 million people across the UK. However, this love does not always translate into actions that help animal welfare.

The public strongly supports animal welfare...

A majority of people continue to feel that animal welfare is an important issue. In a list of social and environmental concerns, it is ranked in the top three, along with mental health and the environment. 

Of the people who selected ‘animal welfare’ as one of their top three concerns, we found that there were:

  • More women (38%) than men (26%)
  • More people aged 45 and over (35%) than people aged 18–34 (24%)
  • More lower income households (36%) than higher income households (28%).

This is broadly similar to the 2022 results.

Humans have used animals for many years, for food and transport, entertainment and companionship

When given options about how humans should use animals, people’s most common answer was ‘Humans should never use animals in ways that cause them harm for any reason.’

When asked how people think different countries treat animals, 61% of people thought that the UK treats animals better than other countries. 

The results of this year’s survey show that there remains strong public support for animal welfare.

32% consider animal welfare to be one of the top three most important social and environmental issues

Take actions to help animals

A huge majority – over 8 in 10 (81%) – of people have taken action to help animals in the last 12 months. The most common actions were reducing the use of single-use plastic (50%) and feeding the birds (also 50%). About one-third (33%) donated to animal charities and/or bought a product from an animal charity. Just under one in five shared a missing pet post on social media (18%) or took part in a campaign to improve animal welfare (16%).

8 out of 10 people have taken some action to help animals in the last 12 months

And wants cruelty reduced

The vast majority (9 in 10) of people identified at least one animal welfare issue as important to address.

When asked which animal welfare issues are considered the most important to address, ending harmful dog breeding practices and stopping the illegal puppy trade were most commonly cited.

But there is a gap between what people say and what people do

Dog breeding

When asked what should be done to reduce cruelty, ending harmful dog breeding practices and stopping the illegal puppy trade were most commonly cited. 

Despite ending harmful dog breeding practices and stopping the illegal puppy trade being cited as important animal welfare issues to address, analysis of Google search data tells a different story. There are more than 7,000 monthly searches for ‘cheap puppies’ and tens of thousands more every month for puppies who may have genetic health issues.

Chickens can't be both sentient and intensively farmed

Almost three-quarters (72%) of people think chickens have physical and emotional experiences. Despite this, only 38% of people thought that 'A food strategy that moves away from intensive agricultural methods' was an important issue to address. Perhaps many people don’t realise that chickens make up more than three-quarters (77%) of the UK’s farmed animals, with 120 million reared for slaughter every year.

The lack of visible public concern about farming standards could be contributing to the UK Government not prioritising welfare standards in trade deals. 80% of UK citizens believe that UK animal welfare standards should apply to imports, but that's not reflected in negotiated trade deals.

The new Australian trade deal allows imports of beef from cattle who are kept and transported under standards illegal in the UK and lamb from animals that could be mulesed, a painful  procedure that is illegal in the UK.  The risk of UK markets becoming more open to lower welfare standards is becoming a reality.

Too often trade deals are seen as issues just for politicians, but we all have power over what food ends up on our dinner table.

7,000+ searches for cheap puppies every month

Previous page: Pet owners

Next page: Consumers

Find out more

Your local SPCA

The Animal Kindness Index 2023 was produced together with Scottish SPCA and Ulster SPCA. Find out more about your local SPCA.