November 23, 2021

Coming Together to Address One Health, One Welfare at the 5th Africa Animal Welfare Conference

In this blog, Animal Law LLM Alumnus, Tony Gerrans, provides an overview of the 5th Annual African Animal Welfare Conference as it examined the theme One Health, One Welfare—For a Better and Greener Tomorrow. The Center for Animal Law Studies co-sponsored the Conference.
  • Wild African elephant in the savannah. Serengeti National Park. Wildlife of Tanzania. African landscape.

The 5th Annual African Animal Welfare Conference was held in Accra, Ghana and online from November 1-3, 2021. Arranged by the African Network for Animal Welfare and co-sponsored by the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), the African Animal Welfare Conference has become the premier annual animal welfare event on the African continent. The conference serves as both a networking event and a forum to share information on a diverse range of animal protection topics. Due to ongoing COVID travel challenges, this year’s conference was held in-person and virtually for those attendees and presenters who were unable to travel.

The conference theme of ONE HEALTH, ONE WELFARE – FOR A BETTER AND GREENER TOMORROW encompassed 10 sessions over three days, with focus areas addressing a wide range of topics: pandemic mitigation; the interplay between trade in wildlife and livestock and the One Health One Welfare response; the role and importance of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the promotion of an animal welfare resolution to that organization; improving welfare to ensure food security and safety; linkages between environmental health, climate change and human-animal welfare; mechanisms of social behaviour change; trends in education, training, research and innovation; animal welfare and sustainable development; and animal and environmental law, advocacy and effective campaigning.

The conference was attended by representatives of the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the High Commissioner of Ghana to Kenya, the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Ghana, the Director of Veterinary Services in the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Chair of the Civil Society Unit at UNEP. Presenters and session moderators were drawn from countries across Africa, Europe, and the USA, with a strong focus this year on Ghana and neighbouring West African countries. The nonprofit sector was well-represented, with organisations working in wildlife conservation, farm animal protection, education and training all having a strong presence.

A diverse suite of presentations over the three days covered both policy issues and practical animal welfare topics. Policy discussions addressed the risks of future pandemics originating in African animal agriculture, getting animal welfare on the UNEP agenda, climate change (both in terms of the impact on animals and the role agriculture is now understood to play in anthropogenic emissions), the role animals may play in poverty alleviation, and improving welfare through better education. Topics focused on animal welfare in practice included: the importance of equines in poverty alleviation, the ongoing trade in donkeys and donkey skins between African countries and China, climate change impacts on chicken production, how welfare impacts on the economics and environmental sustainability of livestock production, how to improve animal welfare by training and education at a local level, engaging communities in welfare education and animal protection, case studies in animal husbandry, the role of African airlines in the wildlife trade and improving agricultural output through better animal husbandry, agro-ecology, and appropriate financial incentives.

An entire session was dedicated to the role of law and animal protection advocacy. Tony Gerrans, a 2019 CALS Animal Law LLM graduate from South Africa, presented his talk entitled: Farmed Animal Protection and the Law: How to Address Food Security, Animal Welfare, Environmental and Human Health in an Integrated Way Considering One Welfare, and in an Afro-centric Context. The session included presentations highlighting the need for more and better animal protection legislation, as only 15 of 54 African countries have animal protection statutes, and many of these are poorly drafted and have inconsequential sanctions for transgressors – as well as a pressing need for welfare and anti-cruelty enforcement. Other presentations spoke to themes of effective advocacy for animals in Africa, and how to target corporations as part of an animal protection agenda.

The conference closed with an update on the AU-IBAR animal welfare strategy for Africa, and resolutions to

  1. develop policies and alliances at global, continental, regional and country levels, to address the challenges arising from factory farming and other aspects of industrial animal agriculture, especially the risks for further zoonotic contagion;
  2. develop policies that enhance One Welfare approaches in animal use, with the African Animal Welfare Conference Secretariat committing to supporting African states in developing and implementing country-specific policies;
  3. lobby the African Union to develop a code of practice to safeguard animal welfare for environmental health and public health and also mobilize resources to promote the code and to build capacity for compliance with its requirements;
  4. report on the “status of wildlife trade in Africa”, pronouncing the economic, environmental, public health and social impacts, from which the African Union should develop policies and a code of practice in wildlife use and trade in Africa;
  5. urge the Conference Secretariat to champion the United Nations Environment Program to provide technical support to the AU Member States [probably through National, Regional and Continental Platforms] to develop linkages with partners who can support the establishment and operationalization of strategic initiatives to protect the environment; and
  6. work with the African Union to develop and promote the inclusion of pro-animal, pro-planet and pro-people protection content in the academic curricula from the primary to tertiary level;

Thank you to CALS for supporting the conference and for providing financial support to attend.

Tony Gerrans lives in Cape Town, South Africa. He is the Executive Director of the Humane Society International’s African operations. In this role, he oversees programs focused on protecting wildlife, farmed animals, companion animals and animals used in testing, education and entertainment. HSI-Africa also has a disaster relief program caring for animals in crisis and runs a chimpanzee sanctuary near Monrovia in Liberia. Before joining HSI, Tony worked with the Humane Education Trust and Compassion in World Farming in South Africa, and in that country’s land reform program. He completed his Animal Law LLM at Lewis & Clark Law School in 2019 and is a 2021 CALS Global Ambassador.

The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law attorneys and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter, with the most comprehensive animal law curriculum offered anywhere. In addition, CALS is the only program that offers an advanced legal degree in animal law, now offered both in-person and online, and three specialty animal law clinics. CALS is a nonprofit organization and is only able to provide these educational opportunities through donations and grants.