Raccoon dog in a fur farm

FOUR PAWS Urges World Health Organisation Member States to Push for Transformational Change in New Global Pandemic Agreement

Global animal welfare organisation says this is a “monumental opportunity” to have a global coordinated response to pandemic prevention


1 December 2021, Vienna - At a special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), only the second in the history of the World Health Organisation (WHO), there was an agreement to develop and put in place an international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, welcomed the decision by the WHO countries to greenlight a coordinated global response to current and future pandemics.

Josef Pfabigan, President of FOUR PAWS, said, “This is a positive and progressive step forward, it is also a monumental opportunity to have a global coordinated response to tackle COVID and future pandemics by aligning health measures on the international, regional, and national levels. It is one that cannot be missed.  

“We must now learn the lessons of the past 18 months into practice, failure to put animal welfare and prevention at the heart of the Agreement would be a grave dereliction of duty. It would leave the world vulnerable once again to future pandemics. This is only the beginning and there are crucial steps over the next few months that lie ahead. 

“While COVID-19 took most of the world by surprise, we cannot and should not have our heads in the sand once again. Scientific studies show that 75 per cent of infectious diseases are already zoonoses, meaning they are of animal origin. Such spill overs happen because of the way humans treat animals and interfere with nature.  

“The COVID outbreak has demonstrated clear gaps at every level in our ability to tackle zoonotic disease outbreaks. So far, only the symptoms of pandemics are being tackled, but not the root causes of zoonotic pandemics. There is an urgent necessity to come together and push for transformational change by developing policy measures in line with a One Health - One Welfare approach. Post COVID we must recognize that there is an undeniable interdependence between humans, animals and the environment; this is the key to protecting global health.  

“There has to be a paradigm shift in how humankind treats animals in the future. Only by understanding this nexus and interconnectedness can we address how we can affect the planet in more positive ways through better animal welfare for all animals and prevent future outbreaks."

In October of this year, FOUR PAWS published a Future Study on Pandemic Prevention which produced worrying results. The study highlighted findings from 29 renowned experts from various fields, which sounded the alarm on underestimating the influence of animal welfare on causing pandemics such as COVID-19 – even with the known dramatic consequences they have on health, society, and the economy.

FOUR PAWS together with other animal welfare NGOs to coincide with the special session of the WHA has written an open letter to national Governments asking them to prioritise pandemic prevention in the Global Pandemic Treaty negotiations.

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation 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 organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS 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.four-paws.org

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