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The OIE's objectives and achievements in animal welfare

Animal welfare was first identified as a priority in the OIE Strategic Plan 2001-2005 . OIE Member Countries and Territories mandated the organisation to take the lead internationally on animal welfare and, as the international reference organisation for animal health, to elaborate recommendations and guidelines covering animal welfare practices, reaffirming that animal health is a key component of animal welfare.

The OIE Animal Welfare Working Group was inaugurated at the 70th General Session of the OIE in May 2002 and the first recommendations of the Working Group were adopted one year later. The OIE Guiding Principles on Animal Welfare were included in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Terrestrial Code) in 2004.

The OIE convened a First Global Conference on Animal Welfare in February 2004. As well as the Veterinary Services in OIE Member Countries and Territories, the Conference targeted livestock producers and actors in the meat sector, veterinary practitioners and international non governmental organisations (NGOs) working in animal welfare. The main objective of the Conference was to raise awareness of, and to explain, the OIE's animal welfare initiative.

Since May 2005, the World Assembly of OIE Delegates (representing the 174 Member Countries and Territories) has adopted six animal welfare standards in the OIE Terrestrial Code. These standards cover:

  • The transport of animals by land
  • The transport of animals by sea
  • The transport of animals by air
  • The slaughter of animals for human consumption
  • The killing of animals for disease control purposes
  • The control of stray dog populations.

These standards are regularly updated to take account of latest scientific findings.

The recently adopted chapter on the Control of Stray Dog Population falls within the OIE mandates for animal health, public health and animal welfare, as it addresses humane methods for the control of dog populations and the prevention of important zoonotic diseases, such as rabies and hydatidosis, in communities.

Under the 4 th Strategic Plan (2006-2010), the OIE will continue to develop international standards and guidelines in accordance with the mandate granted by Members.

The 2nd OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare entitled ‘'Putting the OIE Standards to Work” was held in October 2008 in Cairo ( Egypt ). More than 400 participants, who came from all OIE regions and from all relevant sectors, including government, industry, academia, research and non governmental organizations (NGOs), strongly endorsed the fundamental importance of the active involvement of Veterinary Services and veterinarians for improving animal welfare. The most important outcome of the conference was the identification of key needs and tools to help OIE Members to strengthen their capacities, including good governance and relevant infrastructure, to implement the OIE standards.

Future developments

Notwithstanding the progress made to date, there are still many challenges and the OIE is progressing the development of standards and recommendations in new areas of importance to animal welfare.

In 2009-2010 the OIE is convening an ad hoc Group on Laboratory Animal Welfare and two ad hoc Groups on Animal Welfare and Livestock Production Systems, with the first priorities being beef cattle and broiler chicken production systems. These ad hoc Groups develop draft new chapters for the Terrestrial Code. The draft texts are reviewed by the Animal Welfare Working Group and the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Code Commission (Code Commission) before transmission to Members for comment. After two rounds of comment, the draft chapters may be proposed for adoption, in accordance with the democratic and transparent standard setting procedures of the OIE. Reports of ad hoc Groups are usually released to the public as annexes to reports of the Code Commission, which meets in February and September each year. The Commission's reports (in English, French and Spanish) are placed on the OIE internet site twice each year (normally in November and April).

On the side bar to the right of this page you can find information on the membership of the Animal Welfare Working Group, as well as relevant presentations, meeting reports and a link to the OIE Terrestrial Code online.

For further information please contact: trade.dept@oie.int