The General Session brought together nearly 900 participants representing OIE Member Countries, around thirty representatives of governmental authorities of these countries, as well as numerous international, intergovernmental, regional and national organisations. The official final report will be published here in due course.
To date, much work has been done at the OIE to develop a new international policy stream covering animal welfare, including a growing number of international standards. There is now a growing body of Regional Animal Welfare Strategies (RAWS), which seeks to achieve the progressive development of animal welfare and implementation of the OIE standards, covering much of the globe (apart from Africa, where there has been no action to develop a continental strategy, just work in a couple of sub-regions). At this session, a new chapter on the welfare of dairy cattle was added to existing standards and several countries were listed as free or low risk for a number of animal diseases, such as BSE, which in the past has led to mass cullings. Also, the broiler chapter was amended slightly, and discussion suggested the possibility of more consideration of genetic strain, in parallel with that on dairy animals. Finally, the European Union (EU) spoke strongly for animal welfare, and was able to prevent the adoption of a weakened slaughter standard (for the time being).
When animal welfare issues were being discussed, the hall looked decidedly denuded of delegates (sightseeing time?)! Indeed, it was the only session where the President had to count delegates to see whether there was a quorum! There was a problem in that some delegates were speaking against animal welfare interests, with the US delegation leading the charge. Some other delegates appeared simply disinterested (or perhaps unaware of its importance to be more charitable?). It appears that despite all the OIE’s work in developing animal welfare internationally, this is still not a key policy issue for many delegates. This reality is really concerning considering that these delegates are also heading up State Veterinary Services around the world.
With respect to Regional Animal Welfare strategies, there is a real problem with implementation, highlighted by the blockage of progress at the level of many individual countries. This situation is being underlined in a report on the OIE’s standard on stray dog population control, which World Animal Net is currently researching. Stray dog control is an area where there is a reasonable, internationally agreed baseline standard, based upon principles that have been known and accepted for decades. It is an issue that has been buttressed by a supportive international policy environment (with commitment and cooperation to eradicate rabies between the OIE, FAO and WHO, with the support of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control). Yet in many ‘developing’ countries around the world where implementation is stalled, the OIE standard is flouted and ignored, and stray dogs are being cruelly killed in mass cullings, instead of being managed through humane long-term solutions that have been proven to work.
The Ugly (and a call to action)
I see two major problems here:
The first is that many ‘developing’ countries will simply not be able to implement the OIE standards or the Regional Animal Welfare Strategies without the support of international organisations and ‘developed’ countries. The strategy for Asia, the Far East and Oceania (the AFEO-RAWS) progressed significantly when Australia provided major support, but this is now finished and the RAWS has been passed to the OIE’s regional office. The European Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe will be supported by the EU. In many regions there is no such support. The need for international organisations and ‘developed’ countries to support animal welfare progress is also covered in World Animal Net’s paper on Animal Welfare & Development.
The second relates to what the animal protection movement is (or isn’t) doing to address these issues. To this end, the following questions need asking:
- Is the animal protection movement structured and organised in a way that unites and coordinates international and regional policy and ‘best practice’ with national advocacy and work on the ground to implement policy?
- Are we able to effectively monitor the negotiating positions of different delegates and regional blocs, and facilitate national and regional advocacy to bring about improvements?
- Are we championing alliances between national organisations for more effective national advocacy; and regional alliances? There is animal welfare policy (and programme) work taking place at regional levels through Regional Economic Communities, the regional and sub-regional offices of the OIE and those of other leading international organisations. We need regional alliances to effectively advocate at this level (along the lines of the Pan African Animal Welfare Alliance.
- Are those of us associated with better ‘developed’ animal protection organisations championing and supporting such development of the movement, and providing support and capacity building to less ‘developed’ animal welfare organisations? Is there more that we could do, particularly if we united – putting the movement before our own organisational interests (and sharing resources and expertise)?
- Indeed, are we a ‘movement’ at all?
How WAN is Helping
World Animal Net champions the building of animal protection alliances.
We have also established an International Policy Forum to link national and regional animal protection into international policy initiatives, and to support the building of national regional alliances.
We have also made our Strategic Advocacy Course freely available online.
We wish we had more funding so we could play a larger role in building the movement that we know the animals need and deserve. Until then, we’ll keep up the good fight as best we can, and hope you can join us in our efforts.