International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS hosted the first International Animal Welfare Summit in Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna on 24th April. The theme of the event: “Animal welfare – question of the future or luxury problem?”. More than 300 guests were in attendance to hear speeches and discussions from experts from the fields of science, nutrition, economics and arts. The highlight of the summit was the appearance of Chinese conceptual artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei.
In his eagerly awaited interview on stage, Ai Weiwei talked about his personal connection with FOUR PAWS. When he did a research piece on refugees in Gaza a few years ago, he came across a tiger rescued by FOUR PAWS. The animal was trapped in an abandoned zoo in Gaza. Animals, according to Ai Weiwei, have always been part of human life – and have been victims of humans for far too long. It's time to reflect on human values and show more responsibility to all living creatures, he added.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen took over the patronage for this first of its kind event. In his humorous speech, he spoke of animal welfare "as a matter of the heart". Animal welfare was "thank goodness no longer a luxury topic". Rather, it is "an existential question that concerns us all." The summit is a step in the right direction: "Today we will ask ourselves questions and try to find solutions for them together."
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, also emphasized the importance of animal welfare: "We need to re-recognize that animals are sentient beings." Andriukaitis spoke of the EU's recent achievements in animal welfare, but also on the huge challenges yet to come.
Host Heli Dungler, founder and president of FOUR PAWS, addressed a bitter truth in his welcoming speech: Over the next 30-40 years, the number of farm animals on earth will double. The emergent countries in particular will greatly increase their meat consumption. Dungler warned against the effects of this development not only on animal welfare, but also on the environment.
Renowned author, activist and scientist Raj Patel took over with his keynote on the topic "A Planet for All?". In his lively and entertaining talk, he focused on cheap mass production with all its devastating effects on humans, animals and the environment.
The present Jordanian Princess Alia, founder of the "Princess Alia Foundation" and long-time companion of FOUR PAWS, was appointed to a special ambassador of the Animal Welfare Summit.
More information about the IAWS 2018 can be found here: https://www.iaws2018.org