Dairy cows in a stable in Germany

Animal Welfare and Public Health: A Spotlight on Zoonotic Diseases and Factory Farming in South Africa

FOUR PAWS urges South Africans to change the way we interact with animals and nature, it’s only a matter of time until the next pandemic happens. 


Cape Town, 27 June — As World Zoonoses Day approaches on 06 July, FOUR PAWS is addressing critical issues at the intersection of animal welfare, public health, and environmental sustainability. Last year the global animal welfare organisation’s Zoonoses report indicated that the improvement of animal welfare and the banning of high-risk practices plays 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 highlights 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.

Said FOUR PAWS, “This year on World Zoonoses Day, we will create awareness on the link between zoonotic diseases and factory farming, urging for a reevaluation of current agricultural practices to protect both animals and humans.’’ Zoonotic diseases, which originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans, pose a significant threat to global health security. 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. FOUR PAWS further states that “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.’’

"Factory farming, characterised by intensive confinement, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions, creates a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases," said Fiona Miles, Director of FOUR PAWS. "By subjecting animals to stress and compromising their immune systems, factory farming not only inflicts immense suffering on animals but also increases the risk of disease transmission to humans."

In addition to the public health implications, factory farming has severe consequences for animal welfare. Billions of animals raised for food are confined to cramped cages or overcrowded pens, deprived of natural behaviors and subjected to painful mutilations, such as debeaking and tail docking, without anesthesia.

"As we commemorate World Zoonoses Day 2024, it is imperative that we confront the ethical and environmental costs of factory farming," said Miles. "By transitioning towards more humane and sustainable agricultural practices, we can protect both animals and humans while safeguarding the health of our planet."

To learn more about the link between factory farming, zoonotic diseases, and animal welfare on World Zoonoses Day read about the FOUR PAWS Zoonoses Report urging policymakers to prioritise sustainable food systems.

"By promoting plant-based diets, supporting local and regenerative agriculture, and advocating for policies that prioritise animal welfare, we can build a more resilient and compassionate society," said Miles. "World Zoonoses Day 2024 is an opportunity for us to come together to envision a future where the well-being of animals, humans, and the planet's interconnectedness is understood and prioritised."

Join the movement to address the root causes of zoonotic diseases and factory farming. Together, we can create a healthier, more sustainable, and more compassionate world for all beings.

For more information about FOUR PAWS campaigns and topics in South Africa, visit https://www.four-paws.org.za/campaigns-topics

About: World Zoonoses Day is an annual opportunity to raise awareness of those diseases that can spread between animals and people and to celebrate global activities taking place to minimise the risks in the future. World Zoonoses Day is conducted every year to emphasise and bring awareness amongst people about the zoonotic disease and teach them to take the right action. This date has specific significance in that it marks the scientific achievement of Louis Pasteur, who successfully invented and administered the first vaccination against a zoonotic disease (rabies) on July 6th, 1885.


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 

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