Principles, challenges and realities of global governance of animal welfare.

In his address to the ALDF conference at Harvard Law School (2007), Dr Robertson spoke on the issue of global governance of animal welfare, and stated:

“The concept of unified global animal welfare standards and protection is an objective that has so many political, social, cultural and economic hurdles that it could appear unrealistic and unattainable.
Yet the evidence would suggest that in spite of these apparent obstacles, there are people, organisations and states who, although sharing a variety of motivations, are actively involved in trying to achieve it”.
Dr Ian Robertson, Conference at Harvard Law School, USA (2007)

New directions are needed to face emerging threats linked with the increased movement of pathogens of animal origin caused by today’s globalized markets and climatic changes with dramatic socio-economic and public health consequences worldwide. It is a mulitfactorial issue which requires a multidisciplinary approach from experts in animal and public health, economists and experts in development.

Shown below are further comments and quotes that illustrate some of the principles, challenges and realities of global governance of animal welfare.

“We don’t underestimate the challenge
of promoting change in animal welfare
in many of our projects, nor the time it will take. Our philosophy is that it is better to engage and attempt to make a difference to animal welfare and, more generally, business sustainability than not to engage -
a philosophy well proven by our experience in managing environmental and social issues.” Jean-Paul Pinard, Director
Agribusiness Department, IFC

“Quite apart from avian influenza, emerging animal diseases, three quarters of which are zoonotic, are set to become more and more part of the world landscape. In response to these major health risks, the international community will be required to take an increasingly active long-term role in a global system of animal disease prevention and control. As a first step toward this ambitious objective, the World Bank is supporting the OIE through a Development Grant Facility”
Dr. François Le Gall, World Bank.

“Healthy animals are crucial for the future of human race” Dr. David Nabarro, United Nations System Influenza Coordinator.

The cost of prevention of zoonotic diseases through appropriate surveillance networks by farmers and veterinarians is extremely low compared to the cost of a crisis:
“Some of these diseases only affect livestock, which can be catastrophic enough – just look at the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK . Other diseases—the zoonoses—transmit to humans and have led the international community to recognize that the control of these diseases is a global public good ” Kathy Sierra, Vice President, Sustainable Development, World Bank.

“The costs of preventing major animal diseases are significantly less than those associated with outbreaks and the benefit/cost ratio of investing in prevention and control is high; evidence from the literature analysis as well as the results of the study extrapolations in the specific case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, overwhelmingly suggests that these major diseases, including non-contagious animal diseases, have the potential to lead to substantial and widespread consequences, especially in today’s globalized markets; in particular, their impacts have implications in terms of public health, food security, poverty alleviation, sustainable economic development and social equity and stability ” (Extract from studies conducted by OIE).

“We have to look beyond avian influenza and make sure we are prepared for the next inevitable zoonosis. We must be prepared as a global system to combat these threats to human and animal health, the environment, and the global economy” Kathy Sierra, Vice-President, Sustainable Development, World Bank.

"In the face of these external trends and pressures, a strategy to find the middle ground with the mainstream animal welfare groups, rather than attempting to fight a defensive, adversarial battle on all fronts becomes critical. Limited resources should be oncentrated on those areas where most gains are likely to be made. Social marketing communication tactics designed to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the public and key influencers are also likely to be most cost-effective." Dr David Bayvel, Biosecurity New Zealand,Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 2005, 24 (2), 791- 797

Article added: 07/2008