Animals are sentient, meaning that they experience feelings. Therefore, they need and deserve a high standard level of care, including a humane death
Animal welfare is a complex and multi-faceted subject with scientific, ethical, economic, cultural, social, religious and political dimensions. The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has put it as one of their main priorities and describes it as “the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the conditions in which it lives and dies”. In other words, animal welfare is based on the principal that an animal should be treated in a way that meets its biological, behavioural and affective state needs, giving the animal a good quality of life.
There is a growing global recognition of the importance of animal welfare, with a demand to improve it all around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) considers it to be a core component of sustainable livestock production, and one of its Sustainable Development Goals. One Health states that human, animal and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, and that to achieve sustainable change and optimal health in any of these areas, all three areas have to be addressed.
Animal health and animal welfare are complementary concepts, but not synonymous. Without good health, there cannot be good welfare, but good health alone does not guarantee good welfare. Often animal productivity and welfare are positively correlated, however, higher levels of productivity can compromise animal welfare.
Animal welfare has a financial, nutritional, psychological and health implication for humans and a positive one for the environment. The safety of the food chain is directly connected to the welfare of animals, particularly those farmed for food production. Stress factors and poor welfare can lead to an increased transmission of diseases among animals and consequently to food-born illnesses for consumers. Therefore, good animal welfare practices not only reduce unnecessary suffering, but also help keep animals healthy.
Veterinary Services, encompassing public and private veterinarians and para-veterinarians (VPPs), are custodians of animal welfare and play an important role in dealing with food and nutrition security. Without action from Veterinary Services to improve animal welfare, human and environmental well-being may very well be at risk.
Many Veterinary Service personnel are familiar with the ‘Five Freedoms’: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and diseases; freedom to express normal behaviours; freedom from fear and distress.
Veterinarians and VPPs have the ability to support animal welfare through the ‘traditional’ veterinary activities of diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases; understanding and managing pain; conducting welfare assessments; educating stakeholders, including policy-makers, about animal welfare; helping to develop and implement policy; promoting effective welfare assurance schemes; undertaking scientific work to improve the understanding and practice of animal welfare.
The role of STOR-Remesa
Assist and support with the increasing awareness on the importance of animal welfare by organising virtual courses on the current regulatory framework in force internationally;
Harmonisation of animal welfare standards and policies, through STOR-STC members;
Offer scientific training for veterinarians to improve animal welfare;
Provide training on scientific management practices to maintain an acceptable standard of animal welfare;
Enforce animal welfare legislation through the cooperation with CVOs from REMESA, particularly in African countries.
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