OIE: Implementing a Global Animal Welfare Standard

GLOBAL - The Second OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare, held in Cairo, Egypt (20-22 October) rallied support from all OIE Members and partners for worldwide implementation of animal welfare standards worldwide and assistance for developing countries in this field.
calendar icon 23 October 2008
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"Egypt strongly supports the OIE’s work in animal welfare and is honoured to host this special event marking global progress in this key field,” said Egypt’s Minister of Agriculture, Mr Amin Abaza, at the event.

“The Conference has reviewed the state of animal welfare legislation and practices worldwide and has identified specific challenges in several regions and countries. There is already a strong consensus in support of OIE animal welfare standards, but more action is needed globally to improve their effective implementation,” Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat, said.

This view is supported by a World Bank study on “Livestock and Slaughter Waste Management”, which found that animal welfare practices in markets, transport and abattoirs are generally absent from national legislation in many countries. According to the study, animal welfare controls are also missing, in part due to a lack of knowledge on the issue and of public resources.

In addition to reviewing the state of the implementation of existing OIE animal welfare standards for the transport of livestock by land, sea and air, the slaughter of animals for human consumption and the killing of animals for disease control purposes, the Conference set the scene for future development of standards and priorities on scientific research.

Over 400 participants, including OIE national Delegates and national animal welfare focal points, Deans of veterinary faculties, heads of national animal welfare research institutes , representatives of partner international organisations, regulatory officials, and representatives of international organisations, non-governmental and farmers’ organisations, asserted the need for the development of additional OIE standards and scientific research in animal welfare. Work in progress at the OIE covers the welfare of animals used for experimentation and the control of stray dog populations.

Animal welfare: a competitive argument for all

Animal health is now recognised as a key component of animal welfare and improves the competitive performance of the food industry and producers.

Speaking on behalf of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), J.J. Grigera Naón cited the results of a study conducted in Argentina in 2007 on 17,370 slaughtered animals: “Better handling of animals in slaughterhouses resulted in a 39% decrease in injuries, which implies, on a national basis, a production of 14,200 extra tons of beef for human consumption, valued at 28,000,000 US dollars on the international market.”

Participants supported the need for harmonisation of standards on a transparent, democratic and scientific basis, particularly for the private animal welfare standards that are increasingly coming into play.

Industry representatives at the Conference stressed the constraints arising from differing cultural and economic contexts but agreed that: “OIE [animal welfare] guidelines are crucial to help ensure that modern animal production systems and practices remain compatible with animal welfare. [...] The need to have a common global basis for animal welfare requirements is a wish totally shared by economic operators”.

Success lies in empowering Veterinary Services to implement standards and ensure compliance

Success lies in the empowerment of national Veterinary Services, which need appropriate tools, such as legislation, training and adequate financial and human resources in the field of animal welfare standards implementation and control. The conclusions of the World Bank study support the OIE stance, recommending that appropriate training in animal welfare be dispensed to all veterinarians.

“The Conference has certainly succeeded in raising the profile of animal welfare, but more needs to be done. Veterinarians and Veterinary Services and their partners throughout the world must take greater responsibility for animal welfare”, emphasised Dr Vallat.

OIE regional strategies – where Members take joint action towards the implementation of OIE global animal welfare standards also taking into account regional cultures and practices – are one positive step towards filling current gaps. A first such initiative using an integrated planning approach to animal welfare at the national level is proving successful in Asia. The OIE pledged to bring technical advice and support to all its Members through the engagement of the organisation’s Regional Representations.

The OIE has launched other animal welfare initiatives, including an educational resources database to enrich the veterinary and agriculture curriculum in all countries.

Background information

The 2nd OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare was organised with the generous support of the Egyptian government, the European Commission and several national sponsors.

The 1st OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare was held in Paris in 2004 and paved the way for the unanimous adoption of a first series of global animal welfare standards by OIE Members.

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