At the Eighth National Earth Festival, Nicaragua's senators pledged unanimous support for the development of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), signalling a national commitment to animal welfare and an understanding of the links between animals, people and the environment.
Nicaragua is the first Latin American nation to give full government support to the development of a UDAW – an agreement among people and nations that animals can suffer; that their welfare must be respected; and that animal cruelty must end.
This is far more than a gesture: the Senate is currently considering two pieces of legislation that seek to improve conditions for companion animals and wildlife respectively.
A UDAW endorsed by the United Nations would encourage more countries to adopt legislation protecting animals, making it perhaps the biggest possible single step forward for animal welfare. Will you support the campaign?
A day of celebration
The National Earth Festival, held on 5-6 June in Chinendega, was co-organised by WSPA member society Club de Jóvenes Ambientalistas.
The day saw national and local government representatives, NGOs, member society Universidad para las Ciencias Comerciales, ambassadors, military authorities, academics, artists and many students and teachers get involved in environmentally themed events, including the senators’ announcement of support for a UDAW.
Senator Edwin Castro, President of the National Earth Festival, described the significance of the unanimous support: “These signatures mean the support from senators, so that Nicaragua joins the UDAW and the protection of animals.”
Animals: part of the ecosystem
WSPA’s office for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean sponsored part of the festival, which is an element of Nicaragua’s World Environment Day celebrations. WSPA staff held conferences at the event to increase awareness of animal welfare and encourage political action.
The UDAW campaign fits naturally into the Earth Festival – good animal welfare practices have positive impacts on the environment, which is damaged by animal abuses such as factory farming and the destruction of ecosystems.
This link has been recognised throughout the region, where ministers of environment have been as keen to discuss the possibility of a Declaration as ministers of agriculture.
WSPA’s Marcela Vargas commented: “The signatures of the Nicaraguan senators supporting a UDAW are an unprecedented milestone for WSPA. We are very enthusiastic about the interest shown by Nicaragua not only for UDAW, but for consolidating a sustainable development model in harmony with nature and all living forms.”
Campaign momentum grows
Nicaragua’s support is the latest indicator that the importance of animal welfare is gaining recognition in the region: Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica have all shown significant progress towards government backing for a UDAW.
WSPA hopes that Nicaragua will inspire these nations to offer full support and help animal welfare gain the attention of the entire international community.
And campaign momentum is isn’t confined to Latin America. In May Samoa, influential in the Pacific, also gave official backing for a Declaration.
The Hon Taua K Seuala, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, wrote: "The Government of Samoa’s endorsement of the UDAW is proof that we take animal welfare seriously and are willing to take steps to improve the situation in our country, as well as support efforts in our Pacific region to do the same.”
Both countries join a growing list of nations which recognise that good animal welfare pays dividends for animals, people and the environment.