Dr. Heleen van de Weerd

Dr. Heleen van de Weerd

 Cerebrus Advies B.V.
the Netherlands  


Dr Heleen van de Weerd is owner and Director of Cerebrus Advies B.V., an Agri-food consultancy that bridges the gap between scientific research and industry application. She engages with food businesses on farm animal welfare and works with government, corporate and NGO clients, applying animal-welfare knowledge to achieve improvements and policy change. Heleen holds a Master’s in Biology-ethology (Wageningen Agricultural University, NL) and a PhD from Utrecht University (NL). She is an internationally recognised expert on farm animal behaviour and welfare with more than 30 years’ experience and with 33 fully-refereed publications and 7 book chapters in the field of animal behaviour and welfare science (h-index 28).

Heleen has worked for the European Commission on the evaluations of the EU’s animal welfare strategy in 2010 and in 2020, and as an animal welfare expert on a range of EC projects (welfare at slaughter; alternatives to surgical castration of pigs) and most recently, on mapping European animal welfare labels. Heleen has broad knowledge of the global level of animal welfare standards through her specialist consultancy work, e.g., on the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) and the Global Coalition for Animal Welfare (GCAW). Heleen has chaired the welfare standard setting working groups on Turkeys and Laying hens & Pullets for RSPCA Assured for 7 years and represents the Netherlands in the World Poultry Science Association’s working group on Poultry Welfare and Management. She is an active member of the 3Ts Network, a global network of stakeholders calling for an end to painful piglet procedures. Heleen is the animal behaviour and welfare specialist on the Board of the Dutch AAP Foundation.


The European approach to advance pig welfare

Animal welfare remans an important topic in the European Union (EU). Citizens of the 27 member states have repeatedly asked their national governments and the European Commission (EC) to develop policies that will support a quality of life appropriate to all ‘sentient beings’. The attitude of Europeans towards animal welfare is monitored by the EC through the so-called Special Eurobarometer, the most recent one was conducted in March 2023. The European Commission used to set out their plans for animal welfare in a Strategy (the last one covered 2012-2015). More recently, the Farm to Fork Strategy announced a new welfare labelling system for animal products. In support of EU policy, the multi-stakeholder EU Platform on Animal Welfare provides advice on animal welfare issues that are relevant for the Union. In addition, a network of EU Reference Centres for Animal Welfare (EURCAWs) supports national Competent Authorities with enforcing EU animal welfare legislation. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) provides evidence from the animal’s point of view and publishes scientific opinions dealing with welfare on-farm, during transport and at slaughter. In June 2021 the EC responded to the outcomes of a European Citizens’ Initiative to ‘end the cage age’ by promising legislative proposals to phase out the use of all cages for farmed animals. The EC presented some of the new measures at the end of 2023. This keynote presents this intricate network of actors who contribute to the European animal welfare landscape, with a focus on pig welfare.