Animal welfare, veterinary capacity on global agenda

Animal health officials act on welfare and disease, celebrate accomplishments
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Dr. Monique Eloit, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), addresses attendees at the 85th General Session of the World Assembly of the OIE. (Courtesy of OIE)

Global animal health leaders adopted a global animal welfare strategy, celebrated a decade of evaluating national veterinary services, and increased guidance on animal diseases.

Delegates from 180 countries met this May in Paris for the 85th General Session of the World Assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Animal welfare strategy

Representatives from OIE member countries voted that the organization should develop international animal welfare standards based on research, ethical considerations, and practical experience. The OIE already is working on standards for producing pigs and slaughtering farmed reptiles.

Those standards would be one of the pillars of the organization’s global animal welfare strategy, along with improving capacity and training of veterinary services, raising awareness about the importance of animal welfare, and advocating for countries to integrate OIE standards into their national laws.

Strategy documents adopted in May state that the use of animals for companionship, food, or labor carries ethical obligations to ensure those uses are humane, as defined through OIE standards.

The OIE plans to establish a forum of animal welfare researchers, welfare advocates, and food producers who will help develop the standards, OIE information states. And the organization will work to strengthen relationships among animal welfare scientists and those in other disciplines, such as social, environmental, and economic sciences.

The OIE also plans to use the organization’s flagship program, the Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway, to improve animal welfare by increasing the capacity of veterinary services and education for those providing animal care.

PVS Pathway

The OIE has helped 141 countries evaluate their veterinary services over the past 10 years through the PVS Pathway program. During May’s meeting, the OIE celebrated the accomplishments of the program since it was implemented in 2007, and an announcement indicates the OIE is considering how to improve the program.

Dr. Monique Eloit and Dr. Jean-Philippe Dop, OIE deputy director general, during the 85th General Session (Courtesy of OIE)

Dr. Monique Eloit, director general of the OIE, said in a video released for the World Assembly of OIE delegates in May that now is a time to consider the program’s results, adapt the program to meet expectations, and ensure it remains robust and relevant. She expressed confidence the program would remain the OIE’s flagship program.

Dr. Thanawat Tiensin, national representative for Thailand, said in the same video that national veterinary authorities alone cannot improve veterinary services and that countries need to have partnership, participation, and hard work.

The program is intended to build strong and resilient animal health systems, providing aid on topics such as acquisition of veterinary resources, national coordination of veterinary services, improving animal and public health surveillance, and responding to emergencies.

Guidance and information

The OIE delegates also amended the organization’s standards and guidelines to provide guidance on reducing the burden of Salmonella organisms in bovine and pig production and the risk of human illness. Among other changes and additions to OIE codes and manuals was providing recommendations on managing the risk of international transmission of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. The delegates also added Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, which has caused declines in salamander and newt populations, to the OIE list of aquatic animal diseases.

The OIE delegates also received analysis of global antimicrobial resistance activities, using survey responses from 135 countries. An OIE report indicates only about 20 percent of respondents lacked any substantial activities to raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance risks, although the report does not indicate whether all other respondents affirmed they had performed substantial awareness activities.

About one-quarter of countries indicated they had established organizations and coordinated activities on combating antimicrobial resistance, the report states.

The survey results also indicate antimicrobial resistance lessons are included in the veterinary core curriculum in 70 percent of responding countries, and more than 60 percent of countries have some activities intended to raise awareness of drug resistance problems and have taken measures to combat them.

During the Paris meeting, the OIE also started a campaign to keep the memory of rinderpest alive to help prevent re-emergence of the disease, now considered to be eradicated. Rinderpest has killed hundreds of millions of animals over centuries and been associated with famines as well as the founding of the world’s first veterinary school.

The campaign, "Never turn back!", advocates vigilance until the materials containing the virus, held in laboratories throughout the world, are destroyed or transferred to a holding facility approved by the OIE and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Through the campaign, the OIE is trying to reach veterinarians, farmers, veterinary school instructors, veterinary students, and laboratory staff to ensure they are aware of the challenges of rinderpest and the roles needed to protect eradication.

The OIE is advocating that the subject of rinderpest remain in the veterinary curriculum and that veterinarians maintain the knowledge they need to enable surveillance. The organization also intends to guide laboratories on removing rinderpest virus–containing materials.

The OIE’s 2016 annual report, published during the meeting, indicates the organization’s leaders see reinforcing and harmonizing veterinary education as being at the heart of lasting progress for veterinary services. The organization wants to harmonize and increase training opportunities for veterinary paraprofessionals working under veterinarians. That report also describes efforts by the OIE to support national rabies eradication projects, eliminate peste des petits ruminants from the 70 countries affected or threatened by the disease, and implement a vaccination campaign against foot-and-mouth disease in Southeast Asia.

Related JAVMA content:

Eradicating goat plague (Nov. 1, 2015)

Raising global veterinary standards (Feb. 1, 2014)

Rinderpest eradicated (July 1, 2011)

No rest between eradication campaigns (Jan. 1, 2011)