Animal welfare, avian influenza, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy were key discussion topics at the 73rd Annual General Session of the International Committee of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). More than 700 participants, including government representatives from the 167 OIE member countries, were on hand at the event, which was held in Paris, May 22-27.
During the meeting, OIE adopted science-based animal welfare guidelines, marking the first time a global organization has provided an international strategy on the issue. The guidelines focus on slaughter for human consumption, land and sea transport of animals, and humane euthanasia of animals for disease control purposes.
"It was significant to see the guidelines adopted without objection by the OIE International Committee of 167 member countries, and animal welfare will be an important ongoing activity for the OIE in the years and decades ahead," said Dr. David Bayvel, chair of the permanent OIE Animal Welfare Working Group. The group's primary task was to develop policies and guiding principles that provided a foundation for the OIE's animal welfare efforts. In the future, additional ad hoc groups will be appointed to develop guidelines for urban companion, laboratory, wildlife, and zoo animals.
Next, the OIE changed the avian influenza chapter in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. The new chapter is intended to increase transparency in reporting and a more risk-based approach to trade recommendations. The chapter includes information on reportable viral strains, the definition of poultry, the use of compartmentalization to manage the disease, and the risk of transmitting the disease.
The appendix on guidelines for surveillance of notifiable avian influenza is also an important document, said Dr. Lyle Vogel, director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division. Dr. Vogel attended the meeting as the AVMA liaison to the OIE U.S. delegate, who is Dr. Peter J. Fern�ndez, associate administrator of the Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
"For countries to continue to trade in poultry or poultry products, they will have to establish a surveillance system with the document. Otherwise, countries will question their statement that they're free of avian influenza," Dr. Vogel continued. "(This) won't be a problem for the United States because we do have a surveillance program in place, but for other countries, it could be."
In addition to changing the avian influenza chapter, the OIE updated the code's BSE chapter. The chapter now lists blood and blood products and deboned skeletal muscle meat as safely traded commodities. According to Dr. Vogel, there was extensive discussion and debate during the meeting over the changes to add deboned skeletal muscle meat to the list that resulted in a limitation to meat from 30-month-old cattle or younger. He doesn't expect the limitation to be a problem for the United States since most cattle are slaughtered before that age.
The OIE also simplified the categorization of BSE status in countries. Once subject to five BSE risk categories, countries can now be categorized by negligible risk, controlled BSE risk, and undetermined BSE risk. Trading partners will use the categorization system to determine a country's level of risk and conditions for trade.
Awards were also presented during the meeting. Dr. James E. Pearson received the OIE 2005 Gold Award (see page 217). Also, Dr. Bernard Vallat was re-elected to a five-year term as general director of the OIE member countries.
Looking ahead, the OIE outlined its 2005-2010 strategic plan. Two priorities were added to the list this year: development and influence of the OIE in the field of design and implementation of animal health-related policies, veterinary research, and sanitary governance; and reinforcement of capacity building, or aiding developing countries in expanding veterinary services.
The AVMA has taken an active role in helping the OIE establish global animal health and welfare standards. The Association provided comments to APHIS, many of which were mentioned during the annual meeting, Dr. Vogel reported.
To view the complete animal welfare guidelines
and the chapters on avian influenza and BSE,
visit the OIE Web site at
for the "New OIE standards for BSE,
AI and animal welfare."