OCTOBER 21, 2021 – Only days before the World Health Summit in Berlin, FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, publishes worrying results of a current international future study on pandemic prevention. 29 renowned scientists, from various fields, projecting into the future have sounded the alarm on the link between animal welfare and pandemics, such as COVID-19: That the role of animal health is significantly underestimated, potentially resulting in dramatic consequences for human health.
According to the experts, nothing less than a "paradigm shift" is needed in how humankind treats animals in the future. To prevent future pandemics, animal welfare must be tackled on the global political agenda. For FOUR PAWS CEO, Josef Pfabigan, this means above all “a clear mandate for the forthcoming international Pandemic Treaty of the World Health Organization, in which animal welfare must be anchored in any case.”
The 29 international experts from disciplines such as virology, human and veterinary medicine and climate research, who participated in the study, predict a worrying picture for the future: Zoonoses are a clear symptom of the serious crisis between humans, animals, and the environment. The most brutal manifestations of this imbalance are also the biggest drivers of zoonotic disease emergence: Live animal markets, factory farming, and fur farms. Habitat destruction and climate change further facilitate the jump of the virus from animals to humans. The scientific solicitation is clear: the risk of pandemics would decrease if animal welfare was part of pandemic prevention plans. The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has clearly shown that the health of individuals is the condition for the health of all.
"Animal welfare plays a crucial role for human survival. Scientific studies show that 75 percent of infectious diseases are already zoonoses, meaning they are of animal origin. We need a paradigm shift of how we treat animals in the future. Our health care system, but also global agricultural and farming systems, urgently need to be reorganized in view of this challenge,"
-Nina Jamal, campaign manager for pandemics at FOUR PAWS
A central question of the study is which concept of health should guide political measures to combat the pandemic. International organizations such as the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health), FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) and the WHO (World Health Organization) already support the "One Health" concept, in which the interaction between human and animal health is discussed. However, this approach largely ignores animal welfare.
With the "One Welfare Framework", FOUR PAWS is now bringing this essential aspect more strongly into the debate. The recommendations of the study concern measures that promote human and animal health, protect the climate and biodiversity, and minimize negative impacts on the economy. Thus, the drastic reduction of animal derived products, the reduction of the global animal population and a gradual end to factory farming are among the most effective measures for pandemic prevention.
"So far, only the symptoms of COVID-19 are being tackled, but not the cause of this zoonotic pandemic. The causal problem is the disturbed relationship between us humans, the animals and the environment. Only if concrete measures are taken on a global level to end animal suffering future pandemics can be successfully prevented. In view of the World Health Summit and the debate on an international pandemic agreement, we therefore call on those responsible to anchor animal welfare as 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," says Pfabigan.
How to prevent the next pandemic?
Results of the FOUR PAWS Future Study ”COVID-19 and the interconnection between human wellbeing, animal welfare, the environment, and pandemics“
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