Alicia, Natalie and Dr Jen O’Dwyer (pictured above with Dr Rebeca Garcia Pinillos) recently represented Cherished Pets at the One Welfare Conference II held in Sydney. The conference brought together national and international experts across animal welfare, human healthcare, conservation and environmental science to share ideas and consider solutions to complex problems impacting on animals, people and the environment.
It was refreshing and encouraging to hear from knowledgeable and passionate people, who care about the planet and are acting to look after it. By sharing some of our insights we hope it inspires you to think about and work towards making a kinder and healthier world.
Natalie presented at the conference, sharing Cherished Pets’ story and the challenges we have faced setting up our first human-animal bond research project in a busy residential aged care setting. The Cherished Pets and One Welfare philosophies beautifully align, and the audience gave us plenty of positive feedback and support for our work.
It is really difficult to pick out just one or two highlights from the conference as the days were jam packed full of great stuff.
So, what did we learn?
We learnt about the wider impacts on us, animals and the environment from how and what we farm. Farming is a livelihood for many people and the welfare of animals is closely aligned with social issues and cultural differences.
The nutrient content of the food we eat and feed our pets has implications for our health and the environment. Protein percentage in the diet could be the key to obesity in humans and pets.
We can make better shopping choices for animal welfare if information is provided at the point of sale.
The pollution we create damages the environment in many we may not be aware of. It was sad to learn of coastal dead zones, where wash off from agriculture leads to a lack of oxygen and suffocation of ocean fish. And, of course climate change is driving species extinction.
There are strong links between animal welfare and human wellbeing. There are links between human health issues such as burn out and compassion fatigue for people working in animal care and rescue but there are also benefits from compassion satisfaction; veterinarians are faced by ethical and moral dilemmas that have detrimental consequences for their mental health; animal interventions can improve human mental health; poor animal welfare can be an indicator of domestic violence, child abuse or animal hoarding; and the attitude of stock handlers has a chicken and egg effect, handler attitudes affect animal behaviour which affects stock handler attitude.
Transmission of zoonotic diseases is closely connected with the environment, animals and people. This is seen where diseases cross between species or are introduced to new environments by humans transporting and introducing animals to new places.
A distressing area where One Welfare plays an important role is disaster relief. Rescue of pets and stock need to be considered when evacuating people. Pets, stock, wildlife and people suffer in disasters as well as the rescue and support crews.
Human recreation activities with animals such as horse racing and pig hunting raise many issues in the One Welfare framework. Animal welfare concerns clash with strong social elements driving these activities.
It was really clear that the solutions for these problems rely on collaboration and multidisciplinary approaches. Doctors, vets, nurses, environmentalists, social workers, governments, farmers, researchers and industry must work together. Rebeca Garcia Pinillos (2016) neatly illustrates that we are all in this together under the One Welfare umbrella.
We were honoured to meet some of the leaders in One Welfare such as Rebeca Garcia Pinillos, the founder of One Welfare, and David Fraser, a world-renowned animal welfare scientist.
I would like to leave you to think on Dr Fraser’s thoughts from his sum up of the conference.
The big three issues we face are:
Pollution and destruction of our aquatic systems, we need to clean up and protect our oceans.
The importance of diet and moving away from eating too much meat and adopting a more plant-based diet.
The impact of the motor car and our road-based system. The invention of the car caused multiple issues that weren’t considered or were unintended at the time of its introduction – deforestation to build roads that provided easy access for more land clearing, road accidents, reduced exercise, road kill, carbon emissions, wars over oil and the list goes on.
Acknowledgement: We would like to acknowledge the generous support of Pets Regardless Foundation for enabling Alicia and Natalie to attend this conference. The support of our generous donors is helping us grow our knowledge and share our expertise in this exciting emerging field.