|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on ‘Animal Welfare and Sustainable Development’
Some 650 million of the world’s 1 billion poorest people depended totally on animals for their livelihoods, Mike Baker, Director-General of The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), said at Headquarters today.
Speaking on animal welfare and sustainable development at a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Seychelles, Mr. Baker said that refugees living in camps in Darfur had reported that, after security and water, their most urgent problem was donkeys. Without them, there was no way to take goods to market, and they had been forced to return to hand ploughing. Following the recent earthquake in Balakot, Pakistan, survivors were giving their temporary shelters to their animals, he said. The meat or milk from the animals could keep families alive throughout the winter, and if the animals survived, they provided something of value with which to rebuild their lives.
He said that proper care of working animals could extend their working lives and allow their owners to sell healthy, valuable animals beyond the time that they could work. In agriculture, they improved productivity and helped farmers to provide food for themselves, their families and the community, thereby reducing poverty and hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization had recognized “the benefits of good animal welfare practices for both people and the environment”.
Animal welfare was not an unaffordable luxury, but an essential part of solutions to the most pressing problems facing the world today he said, adding that even climate change was impacted by the conditions in which animals were kept. There was more carbon dioxide damage from intensive livestock farming than from the total combined emissions of the gas from cars and planes. Viewing animal welfare as a luxury was hindering progress towards sustainable development, he cautioned.
Providing a concrete example of how animal welfare combined with sustainable development to address many challenges facing the international community, Vinod Kapur, Founder of Kegg Farms in India, recounted how his industrial poultry enterprise, which between 1967 and 1991 had become one of the world’s largest producers of poultry and eggs, had gone on to create a system that allowed the gains of modern science to trickle down to India’s most remote villages. The project was now servicing more that 1 million households in the remotest villages of India’s 13 States while generating more than $100 million in food and income at no cost.
Conceived as a business model, the enterprise had enhanced community welfare, poverty alleviation, and women’s empowerment, he said. It promoted sustainable development, conservation, waste disposal, and raised the well-being of those villages, all while improving the lives of the chickens themselves. Unlike industrial poultry production, village production had always been a no-cost backyard activity of the poorest families, principally women, he said. Chickens were multicoloured and lived entirely by scavenging.
Unlike industrial poultry, which suffered from 15 sorts of disease and must be fed antibiotics, village poultry rarely suffered from only one disease, he said, conceding, however, that they were susceptible to predators when young.
The challenge was to create a high-yielding, multicoloured bird that could live off scavenging, be hardier and more resistant to predators and to immunize them against the one disease found in the villages, and to find a cost-effective delivery system.
Kegg Farms met those challenges with a multicoloured chicken weighing significantly more than the village breeds, Mr. Kapur said. Nurseries had been created for immunizing chicks and keeping them for the first weeks of their lives until they were strong enough to escape predators. A network of vendors would buy birds from the nurseries, carry them by bicycle to remote villages, and sell them to households. The chickens roamed freely, eating whatever they came across, but also developed relationships with their owners. They produced more eggs and meat than those previously kept by the villagers, and had bred among themselves, increasing their numbers and all at virtually no cost.
That sustainable project satisfied the needs of business and the village, and was potentially applicable to any part of the world that had a tradition of raising chickens in villages.
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