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One Health, animal ethics and animal welfare

A One Health perspective encompasses reflections on human and animal well-being per se. Humans have rights and are seeking to maximise their well-being; similarly, one might ask whether animals have rights, and if so, how should we consider their well-being?

Despite an overall protective attitude in most cultures and religions, the reality is appalling. Worldwide and across different cultures and religions, animals are reared, transported and slaughtered by the millions under terribly inhumane conditions, which urgently call for a much stronger engagement for animal protection and welfare.

Animal biodiversity contributes to stable ecosystem services and extensive livestock rearing maintains carbon sequestration in semi-arid areas. Animal diseases threaten human health and food security, for example by the transmission of zoonotic diseases or by the loss of animal capacity for ploughing. Large parts of the world could not be inhabited without the moderate use of livestock. Consequently, we can no longer shut our eyes to the close linkage, interrelations and interdependencies of human and animal health without considering at the same time maintenance of stable ecosystem services, some of which are seriously threatened by livestock rearing methods and/or excessive, exploitative human activities.

Peter Rabinowitz, an occupational physician at Yale University, proposes that people should change their point of view towards animals from ‘us versus them’ to an attitude of ‘shared risk’ between humans and animals (Rabinowitz et al. 2008; Rabinowitz and Conti 2010). For example, consider the high cancer rate of Beluga whales in the Saguenay fjord in Canada. Belugas are continually exposed to wastewater from industry. The whale cancer incidence becomes an indicator of environmental quality. Humans thus have an interest in preserving the quality of the environment so that it does not adversely affect both whale and human health.

From an integrative One Health, conservation biology and/or ecosystem perspective, animals should be highly valued and treated as part of an overall effort to maintain and sustain ecosystem integrity and comprehensive well-being. This involves animal husbandry and traction, animal transport, slaughter practices and wildlife conservation (see Wettlaufer et al. 2015; Cumming and Cumming 2015; Cumming et al. 2015).

Livestock holders should be regularly trained on best animal welfare practices in their rearing system. Slaughtering practices should aim to reduce stress during animal handling. As part of economic growth, meat consumption has grown notably in the last decades. Livestock plays an important role, especially in the livelihood of hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, including use also for ploughing and transport. There is increasing research on livestock, companion animals and wildlife in developing countries. However, there is almost a complete lack of legislation regarding animal testing. Care should be taken that animal testing does not become an ‘offshore enterprise’ allowing industrialised countries to evade stringent regulations.


Further reading

Read more on the rights of animals:
The website of global animal law.

Wettlaufer, L. et al. (2015). The Human-Animal Relationship in the Law, in: Zinsstag, J. et al. One Health. The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches, Wallingford, CABI, 26-37.

References

Rabinowitz, P. M. and Conti, L. A. (2010). Human - Animal Medicine. Clinical Approaches to Zoonoses, Toxicants and Other Shared Health Risks, Maryland Heights, Saunders/Elsevier.

Rabinowitz, P. M. et al. (2008). From ‘Us vs. Them’ to ‘Shared Risk’: Can Animals Help Link Environmental Factors to Human Health?, in: EcoHealth 5(2), 224-229.

Wettlaufer, L. et al. (2015). The Human-Animal Relationship in the Law, in: Zinsstag, J. et al., One Health. The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches, Wallingford, CABI, 26-37.

Cumming, D. H. M. and Cumming, G. S. (2015). One Health: an Ecological and Conservation Perspective, in: Zinsstag, J. et al. One Health. The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health approaches, Wallingford, CABI, 38-51.

Cumming, D. H. M. et al. (2015). Beyond Fences: Wildlife, Livestock and Land Use in Southern Africa, in: Zinsstag, J. et al. One Health. The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches, Wallingford, CABI, 243-257.

This article is extracted from Zinsstag, J. et al. (2015). Theoretical Issues of One Health, in: Zinsstag, J. et al. One Health. The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches, Wallingford, CABI, 16-25.

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This article is from the free online course:

One Health: Connecting Humans, Animals and the Environment

University of Basel

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