GLOBAL - Animal welfare is becoming a hot topic in countries traditionally dominated by subsistence farming.
In Lesotho, Africa, great concern has been expressed on what missed opportunities African agriculture could rue if standardised welfare does not arrive soon.
Globalisation has seen a ‘huge revolution’ in livestock trade and products, which is a door that needs opening with improved and regulated animal welfare, says a team of researchers in a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) report.
According to Marosi Molombo and T. Mumba of Lesotho’s Agriculture Ministry, unless changes are forthcoming, national and international trade could be hindered, limiting economic growth.
They say that almost a third of Africa’s gross domestic product is agricultural, employing 300 million people.
“Animal welfare has not yet achieved a high political profile in developing countries…none of the countries in the Southern African Development Community has a dedicated animal welfare policy or specific animal welfare legislation,” said the report.
The experts called on regulators to form sustainable policies accommodating economics and culture.
The report added: “Despite strong cultural beliefs about animals being a sign of wealth in Africa, mistreatment of livestock still occurs.”
However, most African countries have conducted OIE Performance of Veterinary Services appraisals, in which animal welfare is a ‘critical competency’.
Already a step ahead of this is India, where its 300 million dairy animals are set for the effects of the country’s first welfare code, released earlier this month.
Under the auspices of World Animal Protection (WAP) the document is to offer guidelines defining a ‘baseline’ for treatment, covering breeding, husbandry, feeding and housing.
With cow longevity principles guiding the code, farmers are expected to have longer lasting and higher producing cows and buffaloes, said Gajendra Sharma, a director at WAP.
He added that, as India modernises, new farming systems hinge on the support of good practice going forward.
“We are moving from traditional small scale subsistence based farming to intensive systems based on advanced technology and high milk yielding cross bred cows and improved breeds of buffalo.”
In an interview with TheDairySite, he acknowledged farmers were cautious of the extra cost the code may bring but said better welfare means better production.
“Ultimately this means any money farmers are investing to improve conditions and welfare of their animals, will come back to them in return productivity and profits,” said Mr Sharma.
“Consistent standards to ensure good welfare and healthy animals are critical to success.”
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