World Animal Week reaches the UN

Oct 14, 2009

WSPA, alongside key governments supporting the development of a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), hosted a series of meetings at the United Nations during World Animal Week. Together we highlighted the vital link between animal welfare and sustainable development, using this film to illustrate the urgency of the issue.

Animal welfare matters: UN leaders heard last week about how good animal welfare practices improve food security, combat poverty, protect the environment and make agriculture sustainable.

Mike Baker, WSPA’s director general, told UN Missions that "Animal welfare is not some unaffordable luxury. It's an essential part of solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing us today."

Animal welfare: an essential solution

To encourage countries to explore the very real benefits that animal welfare offers, WSPA is asking the UN to include language that recognizes the links between animal welfare and development issues – such as poverty and climate change – into this year’s UN General Assembly resolution on sustainable development.

Including references to animal welfare would be a vital milestone in the journey to adoption of a UDAW by the UN General Assembly.

A Declaration will establish that animals can feel pain and suffer, and encourage governments to make and enforce laws that benefit animals – laws that can also protect people and the environment.

Jakob Strom, Counsellor for Economic and Social Affairs, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN, has called the link between sustainable development and animal welfare a “win-win solution for human beings and animals.”

Making the case for welfare

Many of the world's poorest people rely on animals for their livelihoods, making a UDAW particularly relevant to them. Pictured here: children and their goats in Bangladesh

To lobby for this potentially amazing step forward for animal welfare, WSPA spoke with over 80 countries – all the EU member states, JUSCANZ (including Japan, United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand) and the G77 – a loose coalition of developing countries – and several UN agencies at the UN’s New York headquarters, with encouraging results.

HE Dr Augustine P Mahiga, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenitpotentiary, Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania, is keen for countries to look at the practical benefits of animal welfare, saying, “We need to encourage continued stakeholder-based conversation on animal welfare that will culminate into a forum to exchange best practices at international level.”

Mr Strom echoed his enthusiasm, telling guests at a reception co-hosted by WSPA, the Seychelles, Tanzania and, Sweden “The EU considers animal welfare to be of common concern and global importance… [it] will be integral to our new constitution, the Lisbon Treaty.”

Animals overlooked at great risk

Mike Baker spoke about international agencies’ tendency to overlook animals’ important economic, social and cultural role in poor communities.

For instance, during relief efforts after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, aid agencies found that local people were using the tents they provided to shelter animals, rather than protect themselves.

Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN’s Disaster Reduction Risk program agrees that animals must be part of our response to natural disasters, commenting that the loss of animals contributes to people being “even more poor when they come out of the disasters than when they go into them.”

Putting it all into practice

At the G77 briefing, WSPA invited Mr Vinod Kapur, Chairman of Keggfarms – a village poultry initiative in India – to explain how several of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals can be progressed through animal welfare practices.

Vist the UDAW website to read case studies that prove why animal welfare matters to everyone, and to support the campaign for a UDAW >>

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