Cape Town, 06 July 2023 – Today on World Zoonoses Day, Global Animal Welfare organisation FOUR PAWS launches a Zoonotic Diseases in South Africa report. The report anchors on the improvement of animal welfare and the banning of high-risk practices as an integral part of pandemic prevention, because as long as animals suffer, we humans will also suffer the consequences of zoonoses, such as COVID-19. The report aims to highlight that Pandemic prevention should focus on protecting humans from outbreaks and spill overs by protecting animals. It calls for the South African government’s first step in preventing (re)emerging infectious disease outbreaks of animal origin in humans to develop a strategy focused on spillover prevention and to assess the level of support systems already in place.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists reiterated their warnings of the ongoing risk of outbreaks with pandemic potential and are calling on governments to take serious steps to stop the next one from happening. A key concern is that the majority of new, infectious diseases, like COVID-19, originate in animals (zoonoses). With up to 75% of emerging infectious diseases classed as zoonotic, they pose a major threat to the health of humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.
Fiona Miles, Director at FOUR PAWS in South Africa says “with 75% of emerging infectious diseases originating in animals, it is important that we implement measures to protect animals, the environment and the communities that come into daily contact with pathogens, in order to achieve equity and prevent pandemics. Tackling the root causes of zoonotic disease emergence and preventing the next pandemic to safeguard public health is the most sustainable and cost-effective investment we can make, while supporting global health and development outcomes.”
Unsustainable human activities are increasing the frequency of pathogenic microorganisms that jump from other animals to people. Pandemics such as COVID-19 are predictable, and its lessons can prevent the next pandemic, if we are willing to listen and learn. “We believe that pandemic preparedness and mitigation measures are essential to adequately prepare for the next pandemic. FOUR PAWS emphasises that with the One Health principle, as a holistic approach that recognises the link between humans, animals and the environment and promotes welfare, not just health. Governments and policy makers around the world must make animal welfare a priority by improving the international policy framework so that we can effectively prevent future pandemics,” says Miles.
FOUR PAWS calls for a paradigm shift in the way humans treat animals and nature, the focus of technical solutions (e.g., increased surveillance and biosecurity) should be replaced by an understanding that we need to restore the balance between the natural and human worlds. The focus of a pandemic instrument should therefore, next to measures pertaining to the pandemic strategy of pandemic preparedness and mitigation, rely on pandemic prevention measures that tackle the root causes of pandemics, i.e., preventing pathogen and spill overs for humans and animals alike. This includes above all, deep prevention, primary prevention and spill over prevention measures. This is also where more action from the government is needed.
FOUR PAWS is committed to highlighting the essential role of animal health and welfare under the One Health principle when responding to pandemics because ending animal suffering by reducing the consumption of animal products, moving away from industrial agriculture, avoiding human intrusion into wildlife habitats, strictly regulating commercial wildlife trade and husbandry and abolishing fur farming and live animal markets will reduce the risk of future pandemics.
The FOUR PAWS Zoonoses Report urges the South African Government to change the way we interact with animals and nature to help prevent the next pandemic.
Find out more about the Zoonoses Report here.
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