AGA IN ACTION
Joining efforts to address animal welfare for a responsible development of the livestock sector
FAO provides a platform for a global, multi-stakeholder approach to enhance animal welfare
Animals enrich our lives as companion animals, they help to plough the fields and to transport harvests to market, they provide essential nutrients through dairy, meat and eggs as, well as other products such as wool and leather. Their welfare is essential, but animal welfare benefits translate also into higher profits, food security and improved human health.
In economic terms, safeguarding animal welfare translates also into profit for many players involved in animal production across the spectrum, from large-scale industry to the poorest farmers in developing countries. When animals are lost during transport, or their meat is rejected because they’ve suffered injuries or mistreatment in the way they are raised, handled or slaughtered, there are direct repercussions in terms of productivity and price across the food chain. Animals that are kept in unhealthy environments or are stressed are more prone to become ill, or less efficient in transforming feed into weight gain.
Since the ‘80s a great number of studies have quantified the economic returns of animal welfare: for example, appropriate handling of cattle and swine before slaughtering can result in higher carcass yields, higher quality of carcasses and cuts and in greater profitability in the production and packing sectors. Proper handling of animals can cut bruises in half at the meat plant and reduced the amount of meat that gets condemned for that reason. Improved productivity accompanying more appropriate animal handling could occur in the form of 20% higher daily gains, improved feed efficiency and greater margins of profit in the livestock production sector. Feedlot managers have found that reducing electric prod usage in feedlots and increasing quiet handling helps cattle to go back on feed more quickly and reduces death loss due to respiratory sickness.
Abuse to welfare in animals translates to the loss of high quality, nutritious products that affect food security and the needs for children’s cognitive growth, and micronutrients during pregnancy and post maternity health for women.
For this many reason, animal welfare has come to be regarded as a global common good, ever more so for the food security of around 1 billion poor farmers who depend on livestock food and income.
FAO has an important role to play as an increasing number of countries demand animal welfare be safeguarded. The Organization gives priorities to an approach to animal welfare that leads to benefits for both producers and their animals and addresses animal welfare not as a stand-alone issue, but as one among other many socially important goals.
For FAO, animal welfare is an integral part to programmes that improve animal health, increase livestock production, and respond to natural disasters where animals are involved; it is recognized as a core component of a responsible livestock sector.
However, animal welfare is a complex and multi-faceted issue that calls for all involved parties (governmental institutions, private sector, civil society, intergovernmental organizations and academic and research centres) to join forces.
FAO recently convened the First Global Multi-stakeholder Forum on Animal Welfare, with participants representing the food industry, farmers, the civil society, inter-governmental organizations, governmental authorities and the academia, reflecting the growing conviction that animal welfare is an issue of widespread interest. The Forum was organized with the support of the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Commission. The meeting was a stocktaking experience convened to share and scale-up best ideas, practices and innovative solutions to the complex animal welfare challenges. It provided a comprehensive overview on activities addressing animal welfare and on the variety of stakeholders providing them.
The Forum was attended by over 250 participants from 35 countries (including Canada, USA, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Suriname, almost all EU ones, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, South Africa, Kenya, the Gambia, China, Mongolia, Malaysia, India, Australia and New Zealand). It included a wide range of speakers, representing governmental institutions (e.g. Norwegian, Australian, Israelian, and Surinamese authorities); private sector representatives like the USA National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the Animal Transport Association (ATA), the International Wool and Textile Organization (IWTO) and GLOBALG.A.P.; civil society organizations like the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (RSPCA), Animals' Angels, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), the Pan African Animal Welfare Alliance (PAAW), etc.; academic, research training centres; professional organizations and inter-governmental agencies.
The meeting gathered a plethora of interesting experiences and modalities of partnership to enhance animal welfare, but also showed the constraints faced by all stakeholders. There was a clear commitment of all stakeholders to participate in the process to enhance animal welfare in the context of a responsible and sustainable development of the livestock sector.
FAO, as an honest broker, will continue to facilitate the joint, multi-stakeholder approach through specific activities to enhance partnerships that will take into account similar existing initiatives and scale up successful experiences to provide a platform to develop a global, common, road-map for animal welfare.