IEC 2008: Animal welfare should be outcomes-based
OIE calls for its members to adopt its animal welfare standards as an appropriate and trade-facilitating approach.
Animal welfare is a significant strategic issue for the global egg industry according to David Bayvel, chairman of the Permanent Animal Welfare Working Group of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), based in Paris, France, and better known as the World Organization for Animal Health.
Animal welfare has been identified as a strategic priority for the OIE since 2001, under a mandate granted by its 172 members. “Through its strategic engagement, the OIE is recognized globally as the leader in setting international animal welfare standards,” he added.
The organization’s animal welfare mission is to provide international leadership in animal welfare through the development of science-based standards and guidelines, the provision of expert advice, and the promotion of relevant education and research.
Bayvel said it works towards its mission through:
- Promotion of science-based understanding of animal welfare.
- Utilization of appropriate expertise.
- Consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
- Recognition of regional and cultural dimensions.
- Liaison with academic and research institutions.
- Use of communication tools appropriate to all relevant audiences.
Standards represent all members
The OIE’s Animal Welfare Working Group (AWWG) comprises members selected for their expertise and is broadly representative of the five OIE regions - Africa, America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Representatives of international non-government organizations and industry organizations also participate.
AWWG texts for animal welfare standards must be applicable to the all OIE members with diverse socio-economic, cultural and religious contexts. They begin by establishing ‘Guiding Principles’ which are followed by recommendations.
An outcomes-based not a systems-based approach is adopted with a focus on the outcome for the animal, not the design of the system.
Regarding the definition of animal welfare, he said: “This means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear or distress.”
He continued: “Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter. Animal welfare relates to the state of the animal. The treatment that it receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry and humane treatment.”
Bayvel pointed out that animal welfare and health are linked and that better animal welfare can improve productivity and deliver economic benefits as well as make a contribution to human well-being.
The OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare in 2004 paved the way for livestock standards adopted in 2005, covering:
- Transport of animals by land and sea,
- Transport by air (based on IATA regulations),
- Slaughter of animals for human consumption, and
- Killing of animals for disease control purposes.
These standards are regularly revised and updated, based on the latest scientific information.
“Regarding the transport and slaughter for disease control purposes for poultry, the existing guidelines were reviewed at the June 2008 meeting of the AWWG as a result of which several aspects will be revised,” Bayvel added.
Standards appropriate to locale
The OIE Regional Commissions are developing strategic animal welfare frameworks to help countries in their regions implement standards appropriate to their local contexts. A Regional Animal Welfare Strategy for 31 countries of Asia, the Far East and Oceania regions has recently been developed with input from OIE members, the industry and non-governmental organizations.
He said that a number of co-operation agreements have been signed with international organizations that share the OIE’s interest in animal welfare, one of these being the International Egg Commission.
Bayvel concluded by saying that the OIE is calling for its members to adopt its animal welfare standards as an appropriate and trade facilitating approach, and he warned, “If this approach is not followed, members risk the development of multiple private standards for animal welfare which would not necessarily be science-based.”