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COVID-19: a failure in human-animal relations?

15.4.2020

International NGOs call on the EU’s top leaders to protect animals

Brussels, 15 April 2020 - Three major international animal welfare organisations have submitted an open letter to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament calling for leadership to prevent future public health crises. The letter highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic was triggered by fundamental problems within our current approach towards animals and the environment. Scientists suspect the virus originated in ‘wildlife markets’ in China, with possible involvement of bats and pangolins. The current pandemic, which puts human health at risk and challenges the social and economic well-being of people across Europe, is inherently connected to our failure to protect animals.

The letter also underlines problems associated with activities that enable close contact between people and animals of different species, both wild and domesticated. The conventional farming system, highly resilient on long transport routes, is identified as a particular public health risk as well as the trade in wild animals, such as for use as food or as part of traditional Asian medicine. The financial implications of the crisis are also expected to have an impact on animal welfare in Europe, as was the case after the 2007 financial crisis when there was an increased rate of abandonment and neglect of pets.

The organisations included a list of seven demands to President Von der Leyen, Sassoli and Michel concerning specific EU policies, including:

♦       To immediately put an end to the long-distance transports of live animals across the EU and to third countries, limiting transport distances to the closest appropriate slaughterhouse and have meat and genetic material transported instead;

♦       To keep a high level of ambitions for the Green Deal including the Farm to Fork Strategy as well as in the Common Agriculture Policy, to promote a shift towards shorter production chains, higher-welfare animal farming practices addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) respecting the environment and restoring biodiversity;

♦       To define adequate veterinary care and animal keeping as essential services and ensure sufficient support to rescue centres and sanctuaries because of the imminent increase in rescue requests

♦       To end the use of wild animals in circuses to ensure zoonotic diseases are not spread through public displays and close contact with animals that spend their lives in cramped conditions and constantly traveling;

♦       To use all diplomatic means to put pressure on international partners to ban markets where wildlife and cats and dogs are sold and to unequivocally exclude the use of wildlife, including from captive bred specimens, in the production of traditional medicine;

♦       To address the potential risks to human health from the commercial trade in wildlife – whether originating from captive-breeding, farming or taken from the wild – and act to end inter-country trade in wild animals or limit such trade in order to mitigate those risks;

♦       To support the embedding of the “one health” and “one welfare” approaches that includes animals in every Sustainable Development Goal, and support the creation of a new goal, specifically on the human-animal connection at the review of the 2030 Agenda.

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Pierre Sultana

Director of European Policy Office

pierre.sultana@four-paws.org

+32 2 74 00 888

Avenue de la Renaissance 19/11
1000 Brussels
Belgium

VIER PFOTEN - Stiftung für Tierschutz
European Policy Office

FOUR PAWS is an international animal welfare organisation with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organisation strives to help animals in need with sustainable campaigns and projects. The work is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise as well as intensive national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals that are directly under human influence: stray dogs and stray cats, farm animals, companion animals and wild animals including bears, big cats and orang-utans kept in inappropriate conditions. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly. www.four-paws.org