World Animal Day is celebrating its 97th anniversary with the theme of a “shared planet” between humans and animals. Events will take place across the globe giving millions of people the chance to recongnise the part animals play in our lives, cultures, and environment.
The world inhabits about 130 billion mammals, at least 50 billion birds, with over 470 million pets, and 34,700 known species of fish which live on the same planet as humans. Animals are a fundamental part of a healthy ecosystem and are essential to our way of life.
Since its inception in 1988, FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, has advocated and recognised the interconnectivity between the health of people, animals and the planet, long before it was a well held mainstream view.
Today, in 2022, thirty-four years since FOUR PAWS´ formation, governments globally, as well as attitudes, have begun to change towards the issue, especially since COVID-19. Scientific studies show that 75 percent of infectious diseases are zoonoses, meaning they are of animal origin. Studies from leading scientists say there is "compelling evidence" to show that the Wuhan Huanan seafood and wildlife market was at the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak.
FOUR PAWS President, Josef Pfabigan, said, "Never more so has the general public been more informed and more intelligent on the interlinkage and interdependence between the environment, humans, and animals. Never has a generation been more outspoken on the need to address the climate crisis and animal welfare.
“All of our lives changed in an instant with the ramifications of the spread of COVID-19. We now must acknowledge the link to animal welfare and act by putting this topic at the very heart of global health policy.
“We now need a change, a “One Health” approach. One that addresses and improves our relationship to animals. Fundamental shifts in our production and consumption patterns are required, from bringing an end to intensive livestock farming to banning high-risk practices such as dog and cat meat trade and ending commercial wildlife trade and fur farming. Without prevention there will be future pandemics.”
Dr Martina Stephany, FOUR PAWS Director on Farm Animals and Nutrition, spoke of the other major looming threat to animal welfare. “The climate crisis is the other great global challenge that we are currently facing. Every year, sea levels rise, natural disasters increase, rivers dry up and summers get hotter. Wild animal species are dying at a rate that is at its all-time high.
“One of the biggest contributors to these issues is large scale industrial animal agriculture. These large-scale systems emit high levels of Greenhouse Gases. Animal agriculture is not only one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis, but the farming sector is also amongst the sectors most threatened by the consequences of the rise in global temperatures negatively impacting animal health and welfare and natural disasters are increasing.
“Humans represent 0.01% of all life on earth, yet we control the other 99.99 percent's destiny. Their home is our home, we have a shared existence and environment. If we risk not addressing the issues that face us now, we face catastrophic consequences in the very near future. Tackling this issue should not be one of politics, but one of will and obligation.”
The World Health Organisation “One Health” definition developed by the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) states: “One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognizes the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and inter-dependent.”
Wuhan COVID-19 Scientific Studies: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abp8715
FOUR PAWS asks for:
End factory farming
FOUR PAWS wants to see an overall reduction in the number of animals we farm, especially in the Global North, where our consumption levels are above what is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Fewer animals farmed and with less intensive methods can improve animal welfare as it lowers stocking densities and allows for natural behaviours. This can help support the transition to sustainable extensive, outdoor farming. This can also help maintain permanent grasslands, which helps store carbon rather than releasing it.
Governments should set national targets for sustainable production and sustainable consumption levels in line with planetary boundaries. To do this they will need to overhaul harmful subsidies that perpetuate factory farming into support for farming systems that prioritise animal and environmental protection over productivity.
By shifting to a plant-rich diet we can spare animals from unnecessary suffering, especially as there are now many exciting new alternatives on the market; protect the climate; better feed a growing population and conserve precious natural resources.
FOUR PAWS wants to see a reduction of all animal protein consumption and production by 50 percent by 2040 and encourage people to follow the 3R-approach – reduce (animal products) refine (better welfare products) replace (plant-based alternatives).
Governments can support this change by getting rid of technical and financial barriers for plant-based products for businesses and consumers and making them a mandatory part of all public procurement policies.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za