Ethical and scientific reasons for respecting animals and their societal endorsement hold a special meaning in the European Union (EU), where in 2009 animals have been legally recognized as "sentient beings". However, the EU, which has defined itself as a "knowledge-based society", has to confront a deep legal reform. The animal welfare concepts embedded in the current regulation not only have been framed since the beginning in an incomplete and unaccomplished way, but have also become largely obsolete as to their scientific content. While the private sector has already subseded the existing legislation by adopting voluntary, proactive, and advanced behaviors and standards in order to meet the requirements of the "reputation economy", by granting a higher level of welfare to animals, European institutions could achieve a "regulatory reputation" that could be beneficial from both the political and the market perspectives.
Keywords: Animal welfare science and ethics, knowledge-based society, european institutions, european citizens, reputation economy, regulatory reputation.