UN holds landmark first meeting on animal welfare

Animal welfare work helped rebuild rural communities and livelihoods after floods hit Bangladesh in 2007

Animal welfare work helped rebuild rural communities and livelihoods after floods hit Bangladesh in 2007

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held its first meeting dedicated to discussing the implementation of good animal welfare practices yesterday. An alliance of leading animal welfare organisations, including WSPA, attended the landmark event to call for more thorough UN consideration of animal welfare.

Alongside the Brooke, Compassion in World Farming, Eurogroup for Animals, Humane Society International and the RSPCA, WSPA yesterday presented the FAO – which is responsible for the UN’s work on food security and agriculture – with 10 recommendations on how it can include animal welfare in all its actions. Read the recommendations >>

In Monday’s forum, the alliance argued that improving the health and welfare of animals would bring considerable benefits to farmers and their families, especially in developing nations, and help the UN meet their Millennium Development Goals.

Better conditions for animals can also contribute to slowing global warming – the FAO has played a key role in international recognition of the impact of factory farming on climate change.

Better for animals, better for people

WSPA worked with the FAO earlier this year, delivering emergency relief to vital working animals after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar.

Disaster management is just one area where WSPA’s aims complement and further the UN’s development goals of alleviating human poverty and disease – healthier animals can better support developing communities.

Similarly, sustainable, non-intensive agriculture – as promoted by WSPA’s Model Farm Project – offers solutions to poverty by providing greater job opportunities for rural communities, increasing local production for local consumption, and decreasing rural to urban migration.

“More than two-thirds of the world’s poor are dependent on farm animals for incomes and food,” said WSPA’s Justine Holmes, spokesperson for the alliance. “By bringing the well-being of these animals under its remit the UN FAO would be taking the biggest single action to help improve livelihoods, reduce poverty, contribute to nutritional goals and support trade in animal products.”

Following up on a positive first step

At the meeting, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Sweden all signalled their desire to see animal welfare remain on the FAO agenda.

The alliance is now urging the FAO to keep up the momentum by holding an official discussion about animal welfare and its relevance to their work when its Committee on Agriculture meets next April.

This kind of discussion could lead to animal welfare being recognised as a key area of the FAO’s work at their annual conference in November 2009.

Help push animals up the UN agenda

The Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare is a set of principles which, if adopted by the UN, will result in international recognition of animal welfare. These principles will also positively influence policy on sustainable agriculture, poverty reduction, and protecting the environment.

The governments of New Zealand, Sweden, Fiji, and Cambodia are all backing the Declaration.

Please add your voice by visiting Animals Matter to Me. Together we can take the message that animals matter all the way to the UN.

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