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‘One Health, One Welfare’ vital to food system reform

News Section Icon Published 6/29/2021

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The strong connections between human, animal and ecological well-being were the focus of an Independent Dialogue organised by Compassion in World Farming yesterday (28th June 2021) as a contribution to the UN Food Systems Summit.

UN Food Systems Summit Champion and our Global CEO, Philip Lymbery, was the first speaker at the online event, entitled “One Health, One Welfare: Food Systems Opportunities for Better Human, Animal and Ecological Health and Well-being”. He was one of several expert speakers to take part in the Dialogue, curated by Mark Driscoll of Tasting the Future, which was aimed at ensuring better animal health and well-being outcomes are at the heart of the Food Systems Summit in September.

A distinguished line-up

Philip described the many ways that human health, animal welfare and ecological well-being overlap, and summed up his ambitions for the Summit: “This year’s UN food system summit, in my view, offers a huge opportunity: an opportunity for UN global agreement on food. One that recognises food’s central role in the success of addressing health, climate and biodiversity challenges. One that sets a course toward a health-oriented food system without factory farming, without the over-reliance on animal-based diets. One that truly embraces that essential principle…that protecting people means protecting animals as well.”

Protecting people means protecting animals

Doreen Robinson, Head of Biodiversity & Land (Ecosystems Division) for the United Nations Environment Programme, said: “The reality is, we aren’t achieving our food production or our food security goals, and we’re doing so at the sacrifice of our natural world.” She went on to explain that we must work with nature, not against it, to meet our food production needs.

Dr Rebeca Garcia Pinillos, Founder and Director of One Welfare, explained how an integrated approach would benefit human, animal and environment alike: “The One Welfare approach can really help us to identify and address welfare and human well-being aspects as an intrinsic part of our approach. Considering livestock as sentient beings alongside the well-being of every person connected to the food systems. This can lead to better treatment and better welfare for all.”

Jeremy Pivor, Senior Program Coordinator for Planetary Health Alliance, added that: “We must have the right diagnosis to prescribe the right treatment,” making the point that we need to fully understand the root of the climate and biodiversity crisis, and how it relates to human well-being and animal welfare, before we can begin to determine the appropriate steps to solve it.

Dr Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General at World Organisation for Animal Health, used his presentation to issue a dire warning about the increasing likelihood of future pandemics, given our inaction: “If you scan these factors on the screen, I think the key thing to understand is that none of these factors are on a downward trend, therefore the risk of disease emergence must be constantly increasing.”

Varda Mehrotra, Advisor for A Just World, echoed Stone’s warning, explaining that, “if we don’t adopt and implement One Health framework, India – and the world – we risk facing many more pandemics in times to come.”

Mehrota also highlighted the connection between animal welfare and women empowerment in India: “In India, as in other developing countries, women are doing most of the work with the animals, yet because of the social, economic and cultural reasons, they don’t have access to the income that is generated from the animals, nor do they have the necessary know-how to be able to include animal welfare standards. So, interventions to improve both animal welfare standards for increased productivity and women empowerment are really key to be able to increase women’s participation in livestock-based opportunities.”

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health, explained how her organisation is using the One Health approach to promote gorilla conservation and public health by teaching people to be healthy and hygienic, and encouraging the development of sustainable agriculture.

In the event’s final presentation, Patty Fong, Program Director of Climate and Health & Wellbeing at Global Alliance for the Future of Food, urged decision-makers to make haste: “We know that food systems reformation is possible and is happening. And it’s time for all stakeholders, especially governments, to start taking action.”

A liveable future for all of us

Speakers at the Dialogue made the case that potential impact on ecological, animal and human well-being should be considered when tackling the massive task of transforming our global food system.

Philip reiterated this message when closing the Dialogue, concluding: “The conversation that we’ve all had this afternoon…shows that ‘One Health, One Welfare’ is an absolutely essential component of a decent food system that delivers a liveable future for all of us, be us people or animals, on this one planet we all call home.”

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