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FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Animal welfare issues are subject of increased attention

A massive increase in animal production over the past few decades has raised a wide range of ethical issues, including concern for animal welfare. Retailers and the food industry are asking for higher animal welfare standards for foods of animal origin, and compliance with such standards is increasingly stipulated in trade agreements.

The transportation, handling and slaughter of animals – along with sustainability and related legislation – are all aspects of animal welfare under discussion at an international workshop taking place here this week (25-26 January).

FAO and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) organized the workshop to initiate a discussion of problems concerning animal welfare in Eastern Europe.

Around 25 representatives of the veterinary services and livestock sector from four countries – Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – are participating. The objective is to develop common understanding of animal welfare and regional action plan.

“Animal welfare is a complex subject with scientific, ethical, economic and cultural, social, religious and political dimensions,” said Andriy Rozstalnyy, FAO animal production and health officer. “Nowadays, livestock producers and consumers are increasingly talking about animal welfare issues, and they also consider it as a characteristic of quality of products originated from animals.”

To assess animal welfare in participating countries, RSPCA representatives made field visits to Armenia and Georgia in advance of the workshop. They measured and evaluated the performance of livestock producers and slaughter operators. Based in part on their observations, guidelines and recommendations on humane handling, transport and slaughter of livestock will be presented at the workshop.

“Changes towards more humane treatment of livestock must come about through the joint efforts of governments, producers, the meat industry and international society,” said Rozstalnyy. “FAO in cooperation with RSPCA and other partner organizations could be in a position to coordinate these efforts, and provide technical advice and assistance to countries of the region.”

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.

A number of studies have quantified the economic returns of animal welfare and shown that application of animal welfare standards and practices can even contribute to greater food security and enhance rural incomes.

25 January 2017, Tbilisi, Georgia

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