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AGA NEWS

FAO ADDRESSING ANIMAL WELFARE IMPLICATIONS

The welfare of humans and the welfare of animals are closely linked. In many regions, a secure supply of food for people depends on the health and productivity of animals, and these in turn depend on the care and nutrition that animals receive. Many diseases of humans are derived from animals, and the prevention of these animal diseases is important for safeguarding human health. Roughly one billion people, including many of the worlds poor, depend directly on animals for income, social status and security as well as food and clothing, and the welfare of their animals is essential for their livelihood. Moreover, positive relations with animals are an important source of comfort, social contact and cultural identification for many people.


The use of animals for food production (which involves by far the largest number of animals used by humans) is changing rapidly. In the more industrialized countries, production based on grain-based diets (especially poultry and pig production) has shifted dramatically toward greater concentration of animals in fewer, larger units, typically in indoor facilities. In some countries, the number of farms raising pigs and poultry is now less than one tenth the number a half century ago, yet this much reduced number of farms are producing a greater output of animal products. Even more striking are the changes in countries with less developed economies. In the last half century, meat production and consumption in countries with developing economies has changed and increased greatly, and now accounts for more than half of global meat production.


These massive increases in production have involved a wide variety of production systems including subsistence agriculture, small-scale commercial production, and industrial-scale production using methods developed in the industrialized nations. Aspects of these various production systems, combined with the transportation and slaughter of enormous numbers of animals, raise a wide range of animal welfare issues.


As a backdrop to these developments, the human population of the world, and the correlated human demand for products of animal origin, continues to rise to unprecedented levels. The resulting escalation of animal production raises a number of ethical issues, including environmental sustainability and secure access to food, which must be considered alongside the growing concern about animal welfare.


Animal welfare has also become the focus of an emerging field of scientific research. Much of the basic work has been done in the economically developed countries, and is primarily focused on the problems of intensive animal production systems. However, the methods of animal welfare science are broadly applicable to a wide range of animal welfare problems seen across the spectrum of production methods, and to the global issues of animal welfare during slaughter and transportation.


Finally, animal welfare is coming to be recognized as highly relevant to success in international development. It is integral to programmes to improve animal health, to develop livestock production, to respond to natural disasters where animals are involved, and to improve the fit between the genetic constitution of animals and the environments in which they are kept.

 

Development agencies that fail to take animal welfare into account may miss important opportunities to improve the lives of people who depend on animals for their livelihood. In addition, compliance with animal welfare standards can promote improved technology and open access to international markets for products from less developed countries, thus contributing to development.


For these many reasons, FAO has decided to give more explicit and strategic attention to animal welfare in its capacity-building activities in countries with developing economies. To guide its activities, the FAO convened an Expert Meeting to provide advice on Capacity building to implement good animal welfare practices.

 

The Expert Meeting was held in Rome from 30 September to 3 October 2008. The Executive Summary of the Expert Meeting Report is available clicking here.