Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union

Sonja Van Tichelen

Regional Director, European Union


Sonja leads the Brussels European Union office and together with a team of skilled animal welfare advocates, works with EU institutions and countries to ensure the European Union maintains and develops strong pro- welfare and conservation policies. Appointed in September 2012, Sonja explores new opportunities to promote IFAW’s global programs and aims with EU policy makers.

Professional expertise

Twenty years of work in animal-welfare policy have ensured Sonja Van Tichelen’s thorough knowledge of European and international animal-protection issues in the areas of farming, laboratory animals, wildlife and related policy issues. Sonja also has a thorough understanding of EU animal-protection laws and legislative procedures as well as international standard setting, established contacts and good working relations with the main civil-society groups, relevant industry stakeholders and academia.

Working on specific animal protection legislation but also aiming to integrate animal welfare concerns in overarching policy areas,  Sonja was instrumental in introducing animal welfare as part of the EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy as well as in convincing the EU to adopt its first Animal Welfare Action Plan in 2006. She contributed greatly to the campaigns to obtain EU Treaty Changes which finally resulted in the recognition of animals as sentient beings and a specific Treaty Article (13) on animal welfare in the Lisbon Treaty.

Over the years Sonja has been representing animal welfare interests in wide range of EU and international fora, giving presentations on the EU and animal welfare as well as radio and TV interviews on a large variety of animal issues. Sonja is fluent in English, French, German and Dutch.

Sonja has also participated in EU-funded research projects relating to animal welfare such as Consumer concerns about animal welfare and its impact on food choice (partner), Welfare Quality (Advisory Committee), European Animal Welfare Platform (Partner and Management Committee).


Sonja Van Tichelen turned her strong interest in sustainable development and animal welfare into a career when she joined Eurogroup for Animals as a campaign coordinator in 1992. In 1997, she was promoted to Eurogroup deputy director and then director in 2004. Working closely with animal-welfare experts, legal advisors and politicians, she has become proficient in planning and implementing lobbying strategies involving the creation of effective political coalitions, shaping public opinion and mobilizing grass-roots support.

  • Member of European Commission Directorate for Health and Consumer ( SANCO) Stakeholder Dialogue group
  • Member of Belgian Council for Animal Welfare “Raad voor Dierenwelzijn” advising the minister in charge of animal welfare
  • Board member of WSPA from 2005 to May 2012