The rise of the recent COVID-19 pandemic reminds us how interconnected animal welfare, human wellbeing, and the environment are.
The One Welfare Framework,1 coined by Rebeca García Pinillos, promotes the link between animal welfare, human well-being, and the physical and social environment2. It complements the One Health Approach, which addresses the interconnectedness between human, environmental, and animal health3 focusing mostly on health aspects but not taking into account animal welfare considerations.4 However, the world faces unprecedented challenges directly linked to animal welfare: food safety, climate change, zoonoses, and biodiversity loss.
The global trade in wild animals and the expansion of livestock production into wild habitats bring us in closer contact to wild animals and their pathogens than ever before. These then present an increased risk of new pandemics developing, with the potential of severely impacting human welfare and our society (i.e. economic loss, social isolation and mental health issues, health complications, increased risk of domestic violence, less exercise opportunities due to confinement,5 and high death tolls).
We can lower the risk of future pandemic emergence if we reduce or eliminate our unsustainable consumption of animal-based commodities originating from emerging disease hotspots. These include wildlife and wildlife-derived products and dogs and cats used for their meat.6 A shift towards more sustainable models of consumption would protect our ecosystems. Reducing our excessive consumption of animal products would save our planet from the worst effects of factory farming: greenhouse gases, pollution, and loss of wildlife and biodiversity habitats.7 It would also protect the health and welfare of millions of farm animals by eliminating cruel practices.
When animals suffer and endure cruelty, their immune systems are weakened, creating the perfect conditions for diseases to spread between animals. This is especially the case in factory farming systems, where animals lack genetic diversity, healthy and species-appropriate living conditions or space,8 and are subjected to unnatural keeping conditions; this also applies to live animal markets where a range of species are kept in terrible conditions and crammed together.9 Such factors dramatically increase the risk of the spread of diseases. And when we add humans to the mix, this can have deadly consequences as some pathogens develop the ability to jump into other species – just like we've seen with COVID-19.
By recognizing that human and animal welfare are intrinsically connected and embracing the One Welfare Framework across a wide range of policies, we can help prevent the next pandemic and tackle the most pressing global problems.
2) One Welfare: About One Welfare - One Welfare (onewelfareworld.org) (visited 31st of March 2021).
3) One Health: OneHealth: OIE - World Organisation for Animal Health (visited 31st of March 2021).
4) Pinillos, R. G., Appleby, M., Manteca, X., Scott-Park, F., Smith, C., Velarde, A. (2016): One Welfare – a platform for improving human and animal welfare, Veterinary Record, URL: vetrec-2016-october-179-16-412-inline-supplementary-material-1.pdf (onewelfareworld.org) (visited 31st of March).
5) Pinillos, R. G. (2021): One welfare impacts of COVID-19 – A summary of key highlights within the one welfare framework, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 236, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105262.
6) Daszak, P., Amuasi, J., das Neves, C. G., Hayman, D., Kuiken, T., Roche, B., Zambrana-Torrelio, C., Buss, P., Dundarova, H., Feferholtz, Y., Földvári, G., Igbinosa, E., Junglen, S., Liu, Q., Suzan, G., Uhart, M., Wannous, C., Woolaston, K., Mosig Reidl, P., O’Brien, K., Pascual, U., Stoett, P., Li, H., Ngo, H. T. (2020): Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany, DOI:10.5281/zenodo.4147317, URL: https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-12/IPBES%20Workshop%20on%20Biodiversity%20and%20Pandemics%20Report_0.pdf (visited 31st of March 2021).
7) Smith, P., Nkem, J., Calvin, K., Campbell, D., Cherubini, F., Grassi, G., Korotkov, V., Hoang, A.L., Lwasa, S., McElwee, P., Nkonya, E., Saigusa, N., Soussana, J.-F., Taboada, M.A. (2019): Interlinkages Between Desertification, Land Degradation, Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes: Synergies, Trade-offs and Integrated Response Options. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.- O. Portner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)], In press, https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl/chapter/chapter-6/ (visited 31st of March 2021).
8) Espinosa, R., Tago, D., Treich, N. (2020): Infectious Diseases and Meat Production. Environmental and Resource Economics, 76, 1019–1044, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-020-00484-3.
9) Daszak, P., Amuasi, J., das Neves, C. G., Hayman, D., Kuiken, T., Roche, B., Zambrana-Torrelio, C., Buss, P., Dundarova, H., Feferholtz, Y., Földvári, G., Igbinosa, E., Junglen, S., Liu, Q., Suzan, G., Uhart, M., Wannous, C., Woolaston, K., Mosig Reidl, P., O’Brien, K., Pascual, U., Stoett, P., Li, H., Ngo, H. T. (2020): Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany, DOI:10.5281/zenodo.4147317, URL: https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-12/IPBES%20Workshop%20on%20Biodiversity%20and%20Pandemics%20Report_0.pdf (visited 31st of March 2021).