Open Letter: Experts Call on Governments to Include Animal Welfare in Sustainable Development Governance

More than 200 scientists and other experts are calling on governments around the world to include animal welfare in the governance of sustainable development now to achieve a healthier, more resilient and more sustainable world for all.

An open letter, published in the new CABI One Health diary before the Stockholm+50 United Nations Conference in June 2022 calls on governments to “recognize the importance of animal welfare for sustainable development, and to aspire to harm animals less and benefit them more in the governance of sustainable development”.

Cleo Verkuijl, SEI researcher, was co-lead author of the letter. It follows the recent launch of a report on policy options for integrating animal welfare into sustainable development governance, led by the same team of authors.

The commentary points out that in the 50 years since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, animal welfare continues to be neglected in sustainable development policy. For example, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 169 objectives, some of which deal with the protection of animal species, biodiversity and habitats, but none of which takes animal welfare into account. According to the authors, this is a significant oversight.

“Human, animal and environmental health are linked,” explained the letter’s other lead author, Jeff Sebo. , clinical associate professor of environmental studies, affiliate professor of bioethics, medical ethics, philosophy, and law, and director of the master’s program in animal studies at New York University. “Governments must take action to include animals in the governance of sustainable development for the benefit of human and non-human animals.”

As an example of how our treatment of animals affects our ability to achieve sustainable development, the commentary points out that animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and consumes “much more land and water.” ‘water” and produces “much more waste and pollution” than plants. alternatives based on.

The commentary points out that the industrial farming of animals also contributes to the emergence of infectious diseases. Current bird flu epidemics, for example, have already led to the culling of millions of birds worldwide.

“Covid-19 reminds us that industries like factory animal farming and the wildlife trade not only injure and kill many animals a year, but also contribute to the global health and environmental threats that threaten us. put all of them at risk,” Verkuijl said.

The signatories call on governments to “support information, financial and regulatory policies that reduce our use of animals and increase our support for animals in a co-beneficial way”, to support just transition policies that support vulnerable populations and to reflect the importance of animal welfare in Stockholm+50 and other UN outcome documents.

“For both high-income and low-income countries, improving animal welfare has significant environmental, health and economic benefits,” said letter co-author Maria José Hötzel. , Professor of Applied Ethology and Animal Welfare at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. “Governments cannot afford to wait another 50 years to take this issue seriously.”

Signatories to the comment include Peter SingerIra W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University; Martha C. NussbaumErnst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, Law School and Philosophy Department, The University of Chicago; Ingrid Visseren-HamakersProfessor, Environmental Governance and Policy, Radboud University; Linda KeelingProfessor, Animal Welfare, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Roberto SchaefferProfessor, Energy Economics, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder; Oluwaseun Iyasere, Lecturer, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria; Will KymlickaCanada Research Chair in Political Philosophy, Queen’s University, Canada; Arthur CaplanMitty Professor of Bioethics, Grossman School of Medicine, New York University; Jerome Segallecturer in history, Sorbonne University; Yixian Sun, Assistant Professor of International Development, University of Bath; and Laura SchererAssistant Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Leiden.

The full commentary and list of signatories are available here.