U.N. committee adopts new animal welfare policy recommendations

Key issues include animal welfare, antibiotic use and biosecurity measures.

New policy recommendations for animal welfare were approved last week at The U.N. Committee of World Food Security meeting held in Rome, Italy.

The recommendations included improving animal welfare, preventing the unnecessary use of antibiotics and improving biosecurity to prevent animal disease.

The U.N.'s recommendations include:

  •  Enabling access to veterinary services, vaccinations and medication, including antimicrobials;
  •  Improving animal health management through biosafety and biosecurity by following World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards;
  • Promoting the prudent use of antibiotics but preventing unnecessary use and phasing out uses for animal growth promotion;
  • Improving animal welfare by delivering on OIE's five freedoms;
  • Promoting access to good-quality feed and sustainable feeding practices, and
  • Promoting a physical environment and genetic section that ensure compliance with OIE welfare standards.

Global animal rights organization World Animal Protection (WAP) credited the changes to its lobbying efforts, saying, “Following our extensive work, substantive language on animal welfare was included in the recommendations, which have been adopted by member countries.”

According to WAP, the recommendations came out of high-level panel of experts report on farm animal welfare titled “Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security & Nutrition: What Roles for Livestock?” Lesley Mitchell, WAP head of policy, provided input to the report.

“This is clear acknowledgement that better animal welfare contributes to better food security for communities, which, in turn, helps to tackle sustainable development goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” Mitchell said of the U.N.'s policy recommendations.

Kay Johnson Smith, president and chief executive officer of the Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance), told Feedstuffs that the U.N. Committee on World Food Security presented several policy recommendations with which the Alliance would agree, including enabling access to veterinary services, vaccinations and medications, including antimicrobials, as well as improving animal health management through biosafety and biosecurity by following OIE standards.

However, Johnson Smith said the report on which the recommendations were based “does not appear to include many references to the U.S. agricultural systems, which have been recognized globally to provide great efficiencies in reducing the amount of natural resources used to produce animal protein while also making nutrient-rich protein more affordable for those less food secure.”

Johnson Smith said the U.S. works closely with OIE and has supported its leadership role in addressing animal welfare issues. “In that vein, we agree with the report's concluding statement that 'it is crucial that pathways chosen are based on scientific evidence and experience-based knowledge' and, therefore, would hope the U.N. will continue to accept and follow the OIE's guidelines,” she said.

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