All animals in Africa deserve humane treatment, irrespective of their impact, purpose or value to people and their environment. Traditionally, most African societies are replete with moral duties of care and compassion towards animals, including insects and worms.
Care and consideration for animals is deeply entrenched in cultural norms, traditions, customs and practices whereby indigenous local knowledge has historically facilitated co-existence in most African societies. This African frame of mind towards non-human creatures resonates with the post-modern understanding of the animal welfare concept. Science confirms that animals are sentient beings; this means that they are conscious, and have feelings and the ability to suffer, and hence deserve welfare considerations.
But there are still barriers to the adoption of animal welfare in policy-making and programmes in Africa, because of the continent’s many human development priorities, and the difficulty of incorporating and monitoring it effectively. Animal health is just one part of animal welfare, with the other dimensions being mental well-being and naturalness (or telos). The tendency to focus on animal health specifically ignores the impact of people - and their attitudes towards, and treatment of, animals. Animal welfare describes how an animal is coping mentally and physically with the conditions in which it lives. These conditions, particularly, depend on people. Conversely, animal welfare can contribute positively to sustainable development, and the lives and livelihoods of human societies in Africa.
Nevertheless, many conditions in Africa exacerbate the need for promoting animal welfare especially for companion animals, wildlife, farm animals, laboratory animals, working animals, animals in captivity, marine and animals in entertainment. Development in Africa therefore must include animal welfare. Animal welfare stakeholders should strive to elevate animal welfare issues at local, national, regional and international forums in Africa.
There are over 100 Civil Society organizations (CSOs) across the continent endowed with expertise and resources committed to animal welfare promotion. These CSOs pose various abilities to link with global and regional agencies, including United Nations agencies, the European Union (and other Regional Economic Communities and international development organizations), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), to develop political goodwill and raise public awareness, as well as advocacy and education. There is a growing need to mobilize for the introduction of animal welfare policies and legislation as well as support, facilitate and harmonize animal humane education and training in schools, academia and training institutions.
All these therefore necessitate the Africa Animal Welfare Conference as a forum to stimulate discussion and develop action for animal welfare in Africa.
Animal Welfare in Africa
In Africa, animals are a key part of the livelihood component in families, and each homestead has an animal attached to it. The observation is that whereas animals are part of community life in Africa, they are also subjected to much suffering since they play to the livelihood support role and are used for both subsistence and commercial purposes.
The AAW Conference is based on the belief that animals should enjoy the Five Freedoms at all times; these are freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express natural behaviour, freedom from discomfort, and freedom from fear and distress.
The attainment of good welfare practices in Africa can be best achieved through the involvement and participation of all, and especially the policy makers and practitioners in various sectors related directly or indirectly to the animal industry.
The moral question though is whether animals should suffer? It is recognized that animals are sentient beings, and they currently suffer a lot due to human activities. They should not suffer at the hand of humans. The deliberation and interactions at the AAW Conferences will always be centered around the use of science and ethics to promote strategies and ideas for addressing the animal welfare agenda.
Why the Conference?
The Conference aims to be the premier platform for animal welfare stakeholders in Africa to engage in dialogue, learning and strategy development to address circumstances and developments in animal welfare.
The Conference sets to bring together animal welfare stakeholders to deliberate on critical issues affecting animals, their value and their contribution to socio- economic, environmental, humane and sustainable development in Africa.
The overall goal of the conference is to stimulate policy development, review and planning for the realization of animal welfare.
The Conference will be held annually hosted in any one of the 54 African countries. The conference agenda and activities each year will be guided by an agreed theme and objectives, all leading to the Conference goal.
The Conference conveners, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), believe that animals should not suffer and that everyone in Africa needs to have a basic understanding of animal welfare and engage in practices that support good care and minimize the suffering of animals. The Africa Animal Welfare Conference is based on the premise that animal welfare practice is the best way of reducing the suffering of animals.
The Conference brings to the fore the fact that animal welfare is everyone’s responsibility because it is about what people do to animals and how we keep our animals. It seeks to bring to light whether people are conscious about how they cause suffering to animals and if people who interact with animals are able to tell when an animal is suffering. Specifically, the Conference will seek to determine whether, for example, all veterinary intervention is good or does some of it inflict suffering to animals? It will also be keen on highlighting the linkages between animal suffering and our political, social or economic practices in Africa. For example, poaching, poor farming practices, limited choice for animals, persecution and conflict are conditions that exacerbate deplorable animal welfare in most parts of Africa.
It is envisioned that every forum held under the auspices of the Africa Animal Welfare Conference cumulatively contribute towards building a critical mass of political goodwill and ignites innovative ways of improving and expanding animal welfare across Africa, from the grassroots level to government policy-making.