World Animal Day: One Year On 

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Animal Welfare

On World Animal Day last year, the global community rallied behind a shared vision: the betterment of animal welfare. Wishes came from every corner, from ending the fur trade in Europe to rethinking factory farming practices. A year on, we reflect on the strides made, wishes realised, and areas demanding further focus.

The fight against animal testing

Organisations like the American Anti-Vivisection Society and Cruelty Free International expressed their desire for governments to shun animal testing. Since then:

  • Canada passed a law restricting animal testing for cosmetics.
  • The U.S. abolished the mandatory animal testing for drugs before human trials and formed a group to catalyse the development and use of novel alternative methods for biomedical research. 
  • Over a million Europeans demanded an end to animal testing. While the European Commission remained unresponsive, the UK announced a partial reinstatement of the ban on cosmetic-related animal testing.

Curtailing the fur trade

Our members Eurogroup for Animals and Djurens Rätt wished for Europe to ban fur farming and trade, following a successful EU-wide campaign. Since then, along with other organisations, they collected over 1.5 million signatures from EU citizens calling for a ban on fur farming and products across the EU. These efforts are bearing fruit. Lithuania passed a law stipulating that the country’s remaining fur farms must close by 2027, and Sweden proposed financial support for shutting down mink farms by 2025.

Reimagining food systems

Last year, Compassion in World Farming called for an end to factory farming for the sake of animals, people, and our planet. It has since launched a major global movement called END.IT calling on world leaders to agree on a clear global ‘rescue plan’ for our food system. In tandem, the Aquatic Life Institute rallied for a ban on cephalopods farming, a concerning trend in aquaculture. Certifying bodies like RSPCA Assured and Friend of the Sea have rejected certification for such farming. Supported by over 135 organizations, the Aquatic Life Institute’s campaign, including on the planned octopus farm in Gran Canaria, is making progress. Also, Green REV Institute expressed their hope for access to vegan meals in every educational institution across Poland. Since then, they have engaged local councillors, igniting discussions about national food policies and attempting to amend the existing national bill on nutrition. Stay tuned for an upcoming documentary of theirs on why vegan meal accessibility in schools is important!

In the US, Mercy for Animals had wished for a U.S. federal law that guarantees basic protections for farmed animals. A year later, we’ve seen some movement-wide achievements like the US Supreme Court upholding California’s Prop 12, collaborative opposition to the EATS Act in Congress, and the USDA’s proposed welfare standards for organic livestock. In early 2023, Senator Booker and Representative McGovern reintroduced the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act, with support from 170 organizations. This legislation could greatly benefit farmed animals if included in the Farm Bill. Additionally, their outreach to President Biden expressing opposition to the slaughter of downed pigs has raised awareness and fostered new alliances. Despite Congress’ challenges with the 2023 Farm Bill, it’s been a positive year of strengthened ties for the farmed animal protection movement.

Addressing animal live transport

World Horse Welfare wished for the European Union to end the needlessly long-distance transport of equines for slaughter. Alongside other organisations and citizens in Europe, World Horse Welfare is urging the European Commission to progress with its revision of animal welfare laws as part of their Green Deal.  The Commission had projected the release of these legislative proposals in late 2023 but has yet to clarify if this remains on their schedule. Help them urge the Commission’s President to deliver.

Animals Australia wished for a phase-out of the live sheep export trade. While the country’s current government has committed to doing so, specifics regarding the phase-out implementation and timelines remain undefined. Animals Australia is mobilising supporters to put pressure on the Government to accelerate the legislation to end the sheep export.

Spotlight on companion & working animals

Last year, Lady Freethinker wished for World Animal Day that the U.S. would prohibit cruel chaining and tethering of dogs. Following their campaigns, Nashville banned unattended tethering of dogs, amplifying the call for nationwide adoption of such bans. The Lady Freethinker team continues urging people across the country to never leave their dogs chained and to speak up if they see an animal in need. They have further expanded their partnerships with organisations in the call on policymakers to ban chaining and tethering for good. 

Meanwhile, in Somalia, the Somali Animal Welfare Society (SAWS) urged the Somali Government to ban the overloading and abuse of donkeys. Since then, SAWS has conducted seminars involving donkey owners, veterinary students, and primary school students, aiming to foster awareness and understanding about the humane treatment of these hardworking animals. Disturbingly, it has come to light that some owners have been using Tramadol to push the animals to work beyond their limits. SAWS is fervently spreading awareness to address this pressing issue and steadfastly working towards a future where donkeys are treated with the compassion and respect they deserve.

Animals in conflicts & disasters

Last year, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) wished for the animals impacted by the war in Ukraine to receive desperately needed food, shelter and care. In response to the crisis, and fueled by the generosity of its members, AWI collaborated with organisations in Ukraine and its neighbouring European countries. Their joint efforts aimed to alleviate the suffering of Ukraine’s animals. To date, AWI has channelled close to $200,000 to 17 organisations. These groups, each playing a distinct role, manage, or support a variety of facilities like private and public shelters, veterinary clinics, zoos, and rescue and rehabilitation centres, ensuring the animals receive the essential care they need. This collaboration has bettered the lives of companion animals, equines, and captive wild animals in Ukraine during different stages of the war. AWI remains deeply appreciative of its partner organisations and the people behind them who have worked tirelessly to help animals in the most dire of circumstances.

Legislation hopes & setbacks

Last year, the RSPCA had hoped to celebrate the passage of the UK Kept Animals Bill. Regrettably, the UK Government has since dropped this legislation. Though the Government has said it intends to take many of these policies forward through other means, animals are still waiting. The RSPCA is urging the UK Government to keep its promises and bring back its 15 abandoned pledges for animals. If you reside in the UK, lend them your support by contacting your local MP: Act Now For Animals.

Shaping international policies

FOUR PAWS International promoted the “One Health” approach, urging a global paradigm shift in animal welfare. With other animal protection organisations, they have championed the “One Health” approach at the UN and with various national governments as a WHO pandemic accord is negotiated. It’s a crucial time for world leaders to prioritise support for communities in vulnerable situations, guiding them away from high-risk practices harmful to humans, animals, and the environment to avert future pandemics. You can learn more about their pandemics and animal welfare work here. Additionally, the WFA secretariat had wished for the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which was to be adopted in December 2022, to consider animal welfare. Although lacking explicit animal welfare goals, the Framework provides a foundation for nations to establish animal-centric policies. You can read more here

WellBeing International joined the call for global action by wishing for the approval and broad acceptance of a UNEP report on the nexus between animal welfare, the environment, and sustainable development. As of this World Animal Day, progress is underway, with UNEP working on this important report. WFA has coordinated with animal protection organisations to provide inputs and engage UNEP Member States in this significant endeavour. The world anticipates learning more about the report’s developments by the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly in 2024.

Collaborative strides in Asia

The Asia for Animals Coalition aspired for enhanced inter-organisational collaboration across Asia. Since then,  they’ve continued to cultivate important partnerships and enhanced capacity through specialised webinars and events like their AfA conferences and Asia Farm Animal Day which provide a networking and strategy-development platform for organisations championing animal welfare in Asia. They’ve also influenced legislation like the UK Online Safety Bill and worked with major platforms such as Meta, TikTok, and YouTube, to improve online policies against animal cruelty. 

So here we are, a year on from the last World Animal Day. What we’ve highlighted are just snippets of the tireless work and campaigns our 54 member organisations carry out throughout the year. It’s a testament to their commitment and concerted efforts to improve animal welfare worldwide. There’s more to be done, and the movement isn’t slowing down anytime soon. 

Photo credit: Tom Woollard / We Animals Media

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