We know that when animals are kept in unnatural and overcrowded conditions, disease can spread rapidly. Factory farms, commercial wildlife markets, and the dog and cat meat trade are just some of the many ways that zoonotic diseases – those that can be passed between animals and humans – can spread.
When they suffer, we suffer.
The Pandemic Treaty
We want to highlight the facts: the emergence of pandemics is largely of animal origin. To do this, we have been working hard to provide input to the draft of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Pandemic Preparedness Treaty, which aims to be the first international legally binding agreement designed to protect the world from future pandemics.
The goal of this treaty would be to strengthen national and global resilience to future pandemics, focusing on improving alert systems, data-sharing, research and the production and distribution of medical assistance such as vaccines, diagnostics and personal protective equipment (PPE).
But the Treaty must go further. Funding is often focused on post-outbreak response rather than prevention of future pandemics. Additionally, there is not enough support offered to developing countries in building the expertise needed in disease prevention. We must also support communities to transition away from high-risk activities involving animals (such as animal trafficking) that could trigger outbreaks, whilst finding them alternative sources of livelihood.
One Health or One Welfare?
The One Health approach highlights that human, animal and environmental health are interconnected. By including the One Welfare approach under One Health, we can ensure the link between animal welfare, human wellbeing and the environment is recognised. This in turn will support food security, sustainability, reduce suffering and improve productivity within the farming sector through a greater understanding of higher welfare standards.
Governments need more than just vaccines and technology. They must develop One Health approach to protect vulnerable communities by enabling them to prevent outbreaks of emerging diseases, not just respond to them once they occur. Time is not on our side – governments must act now.