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The World Organisation for Animal Health

February 5, 2012
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The human population, all eight billion of us, is now connected through international trade and mores that are becoming increasingly common. One area in particular we are finding common ground is the treatment and welfare of both farm animals and companion animals.

Ever wonder if there was an international intergovernmental organization that addresses these concerns in an attempt to form a cohesive stand on animal welfare issues? Happily, there is. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was established in 1924 to improve animal health worldwide. The impetus for its formation was to prevent the global spread of animal-borne diseases that were increasing as a result of increased trade in animals (including both terrestrial and aquatic) and animal products.

Now headquartered in Paris, it consists of 178 Member Nations (including the US) that meet annually; each Member Nation has one delegate to represent it. The US delegate is Dr. John Clifford, Vice President of the OIE Regional Commission for the Americas, USDA-APHIS, Veterinary Services Deputy Administrator.

The OIE Animal Welfare Working Group was officially created in 2002 and its recommendations were adopted one year later. This is the how they decided to define Animal Welfare in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code in 2004:

Animal welfare 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 behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. Good animal welfare requires disease prevention and veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter, management, nutrition, humane handling and humane slaughter/killing. Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment.

I’m ok with that definition. I’m also ok with posting this video that describes some of the agreements made in the Code and shows exactly how some of the Member Nations are not adhering to the document they just signed (yes, that includes the U.S.). Warning – the video is graphic and it will piss you off.

 

The OIE prides itself on its standing that all recommendations it issues are based on scientific evidence.  That is awesome.  Having both a BS and MS in Biology, I’m into science and scientific evidence. But, I think it’s sad that we can’t just look at something and know that it is wrong; that some people can only be convinced an atrocity is occurring when little probes are attached to an animal and the feedback reads “Pain is being experienced.”

The next OIE conference is scheduled for later this year in Malaysia where they plan to address implementing the standards in all Member Countries (really implementing them and not just saying they will implement them.)  I’ll keep you informed!

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