March 10, 2021 – On March 11 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In light of the anniversary, global animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS calls on the WHO, OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) to lead global efforts in stopping the next pandemic and adopt a One Health and One Welfare framework. The open letter further outlines key strategies to combat zoonotic diseases. According to an UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) report from 2020, 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, including COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has completely changed all facets of our lives, but institutions and governments are tackling the symptoms and not the root cause of this pandemic and other zoonotic outbreaks. The underlying problem is the dysfunctional relationship between us, humans, with animals and nature. Only when concrete measures, ending animal suffering, are introduced worldwide, can future zoonotic pandemics be stopped. We demand a holistic approach from those responsible because animal welfare equals environmental health equals human wellbeing",
-Josef Pfabigan, FOUR PAWS President
From factory farming to live animal trade and fur farms
To prevent zoonotic pandemics in the future, FOUR PAWS asks that the WHO, OIE, FAO and responsible governments stop focusing on interim pharmaceutical solutions while not addressing the actual issues around animal abuse. Sustainable solutions that begin with the banning of fur farms, live animal markets, the wild animal trade, and the dog and cat meat trade are required.
Furthermore, factory farming must be put to a stop and the reduction of meat consumption must be promoted. This will also ensure that wild animals' habitats are not further destroyed, and that the climate crisis is no longer fueled. Neglecting animal welfare and environment health at the expense of growth has led to a dangerous imbalance. Deforestation has expanded the boundaries between human settlements and wildlife habitat, where infectious diseases evolve and spread most easily from wild animals to humans.
Ticking time bombs all over the world
International experts believe that the novel coronavirus originated in wild animals and was transmitted to humans through an animal intermediate host potentially at a live animal market in Wuhan, China. According to FOUR PAWS research, live animal markets are often completely overcrowded and under-regulated. Animals of different species, such as pangolins, snakes, dogs, and cats are held in extremely unsanitary conditions, crammed into confined spaces, and brutally slaughtered for their meat. The cruel and outdated conditions lead to weakened immune systems, pathogen transfer and greater chances of emergence of novel pathogens, which increases the risks for humans.
“These conditions and dangers are not only found in live animal markets in Asia. Pigs and chickens, treated equally dreadfully in factory farms, have succumbed to swine and bird flu worldwide. Millions of minks, vegetating on fur farms in Europe, have been infected with COVID-19 and reinfected humans with mutations of the virus. As long as we let animals suffer like this, we humans will suffer the consequences of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. We need to act now,"
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization 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 organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects 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.fourpawsusa.org