The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
WAN recognizes the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a key driver of animal welfare change across the world; and has played a role in supporting the development of regional strategies in Africa (preparing country baseline reports, research and strategic analysis) and in OIE decision-making and advice (including on the contents and methodologies for strategies). We have also advocated for further animal welfare advances including the development of a global strategy.
WAN is a member of the International Coalition for Animal Welfare (ICFAW), which represents international NGOs at the OIE.
Advocacy in support of animal welfare developments at the OIE is an important part of WAN’s work, and we welcome the opportunity to attend and contribute to OIE animal welfare conferences and meetings. We also encourage advocacy by other animal protection organizations to influence national governments to implement the OIE standards and support the development and progress of regional animal welfare strategies.
We will also continue to pursue advocacy opportunities with key OIE “collaborating partners” (including the EU, FAO, WHO, World Bank and national international development organizations) in favor of the mainstreaming of animal welfare in development.
Below is a brief glossary of relevant OIE terms, together with links to enable you to explore OIE animal welfare programs and structures of interest in more detail.
Animal Welfare: An OIE Priority
Animal welfare was first identified as a priority for the OIE in the OIE Strategic Plan 2001-2005. OIE Member Countries and Territories mandated the organization to take the lead internationally on animal welfare and, as the international reference organization for animal health, to elaborate recommendations and guidelines covering animal welfare practices.
OIE International Standards
Since 2005, the OIE has adopted an ever-increasing body of international animal welfare standards. These standards have been agreed by, and should be implemented by, each OIE Member Country. While these are not always of the highest standards desired by animal protection advocates, they are useful baselines (and can be a big improvement for the many countries which still have few or no legal provisions governing animal welfare). However, there remains a recognized gap between these standards and the actual situation on the ground in many countries. The OIE is now taking a number of initiatives to improve implementation of the standards by member countries.
This clever OIE infographic depicts the existing OIE animal welfare standards.
Animal Welfare Working Group (AWWG)
The OIE has a permanent Working Group on Animal Welfare, with eight experts selected on the basis of their scientific excellence and to represent the geographical and cultural diversity of the OIE.
The AWWG is assisted by expert ad hoc groups that are convened to develop draft OIE standards on specific animal welfare issues.
Draft standards are reviewed by the OIE's Code Commissions which meet annually in February and September.
OIE Collaborating Centres
There is a number of “OIE Collaborating Centres” working on animal welfare. These are national institutes recognised by the OIE for their expertise in this field. The mandate of these collaborating centres is to provide services relating to animal welfare in support of the implementation of OIE policies.
Local OIE Collaborating Centres can be found here.
Each OIE member country appoints a permanent national Delegate to represent it at the OIE and to exercise its right to vote.
OIE Delegates for each country can be identified here.
Animal Welfare Focal Points
Each OIE member country is required to appoint a national Animal Welfare Focal Point. One of the Animal Welfare Focal Point’s key purposes is to liaise and consult with animal protection organizations in their own country.
AW Focal Points are usually listed on the OIE’s regional websites, which can be found here.
In addition to developing international standards, the OIE is promoting the development of Regional Animal Welfare Strategies (RAWS) – which are strategic plans for the development of animal welfare throughout a region. These are the tools which should address regional needs and priorities, and lead to the progressive implementation of the standards (and the development of animal welfare more generally).
Asia, the Far East and Oceania (AFEO) was the first region to develop a RAWS. Now its work has been emulated and spread, and RAWS have been drafted for all regions apart from Africa (although a number of sub-regions of Africa have begun work on sub-regional RAWS).
The contents of the regional strategies vary slightly from region to region, depending on the baseline situation and differing regional priorities. However, the fundamental aspects are the same. These have been specifically designed to ensure the sustainable development of animal welfare (including lasting social change, instead of simply enacting laws that are never adhered to or enforced). They cover aspects such as:
- Education and training/capacity building on animal welfare at regional and national levels
- Animal welfare structures, policies/strategies, legislation and enforcement
- Awareness-raising and information
- Proactive project support [including practical programs to improve animal welfare at slaughter, in transport, and at markets; and humane stray dog control and rabies prevention]
- Regional information, communication and coordination structure and mechanisms for control and monitoring
Information on the current status of RAWS can be found on the OIE’s website.
The development of these strategies is already propelling institutional animal welfare knowledge and awareness. After adoption, the next challenge is their progressive implementation. WAN recognizes that the achievement of enduring change for the welfare of animals will require the harnessing of the actions and energies of all stakeholders, including international organizations and international development organizations. If well researched, with clear strategic priorities, these strategies can provide a clear focus for development support and international expertise.
Global Animal Welfare Strategy
The OIE is currently drafting a global animal welfare strategy.
The OIE holds a global animal welfare conference once every four years, which animal protection organizations can apply to attend. These conferences make recommendations for the future animal welfare policy regime, and thus are crucial to the future of international animal welfare policy.
The OIE’s animal welfare work is of vital importance to the work of every animal protection organization. The movement can not only influence and support this growing policy stream, but also national and local animal protection organizations can use the OIE’s policies, work and pronouncements in support of their own advocacy.