One Welfare Links Animal Welfare to Human Wellbeing, Environment

( Farm Journal's PORK )

The connection between animal and human health is hard to deny. In fact, that relationship has gained great momentum in the past 10 years as the One Health concept, a worldwide strategy for expanding and fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment.

The concept is mainly focused on medical health, but Rebeca García Pinillos with One Welfare Community Interest Group is expanding that viewpoint with her One Welfare approach building on the strong link between animal welfare and human wellbeing.

At the 2019 Pig Welfare Symposium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Wednesday, García Pinillos said the concept of One Welfare recognizes the interconnections between animal welfare, human wellbeing and their physical and social environment. 

“Generally animal production fora tend to focus mainly on the health and welfare of animals without discussing the impacts on livestock keepers, personnel and the communities and environment interconnected with the animals,” she said.

The concept of One Welfare helps to describe how animal welfare can have wider implications, beyond the animals. Providing a name helps people not so familiar with these relationships to identify and recognize that such links between human and animal welfare exist.

García Pinillos said this approach also encourages the integration of the direct and indirect links between animal welfare, human wellbeing and environmentally friendly animal keeping systems. 

“This concept enables the means to improve animal welfare, human and environmental wellbeing at local level worldwide as a basis for expanding opportunities within a number of disciplines related to the swine industry’s role in sustainability including, for example, farming, livelihoods support or science industries,” she said. 

The One Welfare Framework is made up of five sections which can help to promote key global objectives such as supporting food security, reducing human suffering or increasing resilience and security for communities in developing countries. It complements and extends the approach of the One Health theme used for human and animal health. 

Section 1: The connections between animal and human abuse and neglect
Significant evidence demonstrates that those who mistreat and abuse animals are more likely to mistreat and abuse vulnerable people around them, such as children or the elderly (this is known as “the link’). Similarly, individuals who treat animals humanely also tend to treat children and elderly people in the same way, she said. Preventing animal abuse can help to reduce escalation and the risk of abuse of vulnerable individuals. 

“If you can prevent animal abuse, you can prevent possible human abuse,” García Pinillos said.

Section 2: The social and economical implications of improved animal welfare
Animals can help solve socio-economical problems. For example, responsible dog ownership prevents dog attacks on sheep, something that can affect not only the welfare of sheep but also cause distress and economical losses to farmers due to production losses or even livestock deaths, she says. Natural disasters also have impacts that affect local communities and the kept animals and wildlife, triggering animal welfare issues, social distress and economical losses. 

Section 3: Animal health and welfare, human wellbeing, food security and sustainability
There is ample documented evidence to show the impact that stress and poor animal welfare have on the release and virulence of a number of zoonotic diseases. This means that good animal welfare for farm animals has an impact on food safety risk reduction, she said. 

García Pinillos shared several examples of how a One Welfare concept could address animal health and welfare, human wellbeing, food security and sustainability. For example, the novel concept of precision slaughter that she has proposed applies a One Welfare approach, improving animal welfare at slaughter through technological innovation while at the same time improving worker wellbeing. 

“Farmers’ wellbeing is often related to their livestock’s welfare – issues of poor animal health and welfare might be revealing of physical and mental pressures or distress in a farmer,” she said.

Good animal welfare is correlated to good human wellbeing both within companion and farm/working animals. For example, for farm/working animals there is evidence indicating that a farmer’s intention to treat animals humanely is significantly positively correlated with psychological and social factors.

Section 4: Assisted interventions involving animals, humans and the environment
Within section four, she discussed the benefits of the human-animal bond from animal-assisted interventions and activities to therapies and support programs. She flagged up that while these interventions are generally intending to improve the welfare of humans, it is also important to adopt a One Welfare approach and take into consideration the welfare of the animals involved and the environment where interventions take place. 

Section 5: Sustainability: Connections between biodiversity, the environment, animal welfare and human wellbeing
An example of a One Welfare approach in this section is adoption of sustainable practices and how that could cut livestock methane emissions while also increasing productivity. She said integrating welfare represents a step forward in the implementation of animal welfare standards and policies. 

“I passionately believe the One Welfare approach can help us implement animal welfare in an integral way,” she said. “It can help us improve human lives and animal lives.”

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