Geneva, 12 July 2022 – FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, hosted a high-level policy roundtable that brought together more than 20 countries and renowned experts from around the world to discuss the most important elements that must be included in a future international instrument on strengthening pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva and speakers including Ann Linder, Fellow at Harvard Law School on Wildlife, Prof. Dr. Thomas C. Mettenleiter, co-chair of the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP), Jakob Zinsstag, top tier One Health practitioner, as well as other experts, found consensus in the fact that a holistic One Health approach is essential for preventing future pandemics.
FOUR PAWS has been leading the way on identifying ways forward, including by publishing a Future Study on Pandemic Prevention which produced stark and worrying results. The study featured international experts from disciplines such as virology, human and veterinary medicine and climate research who have highlighted a worrying picture for the future, showing that zoonoses are a clear symptom of the serious crisis between humans, animals and the environment as well as the extent to which animal suffering contributes to disease outbreaks, with dramatic consequences on health, society, and the economy has been highly underestimated.
The study was released weeks before last year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) decision“to kickstart a global process” to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organisation to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
FOUR PAWS, together with the Born Free Foundation, Compassion in World Farming International, and Proyecto Animales Latino América took the opportunity of this high-level event to present governments with a petition of nearly 600,000 signatories calling for animal welfare to be a global priority for United Nations Member States in their efforts to prevent pandemics during the upcoming negotiations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
Dr. Prof. Thomas C. Mettenleiter, said, "I was delighted to attend this first-class roundtable organised by FOUR PAWS, where I spoke about the essential need to incorporate the One Health approach which recognises the intrinsic linkage between human, animal and ecosystem health would break up siloed and anthropocentric thinking and enable a holistic, interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach to preventing future pandemics."
“The response from the public has been overwhelming. Living through COVID-19 they have seen that there is an urgent need for international cooperation on global health policy to eliminate risk factors and they understand that animal welfare must be at the very heart of decision-makers' efforts.
At the roundtable event we have seen clear evidence for prioritising a holistic One Health approach in the WHO pandemic instrument in order to prevent the next pandemic. Animal welfare plays a crucial role for human survival. Scientific studies show that 75 per cent of infectious diseases are zoonoses, meaning they are of animal origin. We need a paradigm shift in how we treat animals moving forward. Our health care system, but also global food and farming systems, urgently need to evolve in view of this challenge.
It is now up to Member States to listen, work together and help us prevent pandemics to reduce the impacts of the health and environmental crises which in turn will prevent crises from occurring in the first place.”
Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS Pandemic Prevention Expert, said.
The petition was also promoted by Asia for Animals Coalition, Greek Animal Welfare Fund, and Lady Freethinker.
Last December, at a special session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) there was an agreement to develop and put in place an international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. This agreement is now being negotiated between World Health Organisation (WHO) Member States.
Future Study on Pandemic Prevention
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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