To be effective, global animal welfare standards need national enforcement
The expansion of global communications and travel makes us much more aware of the plight of animals around the world.
Global trade increases pressure on animals, whether it is trade in live, wild and domestic animals or trade in wildlife products such as ivory. Illegal wildlife trade causes the suffering and death of untold numbers of animals. This is not the only worrying scenario though; even the legal wildlife trade is virtually ungoverned in terms of animal welfare.
For people who care about animals it is very difficult to cope with the knowledge of the suffering inflicted illegally on animals by the wildlife trade.
The fact that so-called legal trade is not properly protecting animals against avoidable suffering is inexcusable. This happens because in most countries’ animal welfare legislation is either non existent or ineffective and poorly enforced. Furthermore international treaties designed to protect species, such as CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, provide very little animal welfare protection.
What is needed is for every country to have comprehensive, effective and enforced animal welfare legislation that governs the care and welfare of animals within the country and sets enforceable animal welfare standards.Until now this has been a hope, and a dream, but things are happening that could make it a reality sooner rather than later.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), whose remit includes animal welfare, is encouraging governments to join together to create regional animal welfare strategies.
These regional strategies are being developed to provide the OIE’s 178 member countries with “general guidance to help improve the welfare of animals through activities such as education, regulation, and research and development.” The OIE is also creating a set of animal welfare standards that will apply to all OIE members, “regardless of their different social, religious, cultural and economic situation.”
The OIE’s Regional Animal Welfare Strategies and their animal welfare standards will be useful tools so long as they encourage continuous improvement however the OIE does not have the authority to ensure the implementation of its standards.
This brings us back to the need for every country to have good, sound and enforced animal welfare legislation. The OIE is to be commended on its animal welfare initiative and for the encouragement it is giving its member governments to take animal welfare seriously.
However the OIE’s efforts must be complemented by animal welfare legislation at national level, that covers both wild and domestic animals, because standards and rules that cannot be enforced will not protect animals against mistreatment.