UN headquarters outside

World Animal Protection Attends UN Meeting on Pandemic Prevention



Global leaders must recognize that protecting animals and the environment is key to preventing pandemics.

In September 2023, governments from around the world gathered in New York City to discuss pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPPR) at the United Nations. Our future and well-being are defined by how we treat animals and our planet, and it is essential that global powers consider this as they debate global health issues and the best ways to prevent, prepare, and respond to potential future pandemics.

World Animal Protection has been registered as an NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council of the UN), which opened the doors for us to attend this crucial meeting. Our approval to attend serves as evidence of our World Animal Protection’s profound commitment to improving animals’ lives, and our dedication to advocating for their interests in forums where significant developments concerning animal protection may transpire.

The Political Declaration of the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response is a positive first step towards preventing a future world health crisis. We are pleased to see the inclusion of the importance of applying a One Health approach to pandemics included in this Declaration. It will be important to retain these key elements as part of the ongoing negotiations for the WHO convention, agreement, or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (“Pandemic Treaty”).

UN meeting

Inside the UN General Assembly meeting.

However, there is still more progress needed as part of these discussions, and we must learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. Animal protection should be specifically recognized as one of the drivers of past, present, and future zoonotic diseases and pandemics, and countries must take action to address key pandemic drivers at the human-animal-environment interface, such as wildlife trade and factory farming.

Understanding the connection between people, animals, and our planet is key if we are to prevent another global health crisis: 86% of WHO Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC) declarations are of animal origin (H1N1, Ebola, Zika, Ebola, COVID-19, and Mpox), and 75% of human infectious diseases originated in wildlife. Preventing the next pandemic requires effective strategies focused on prevention at the source by addressing some of the key drivers related to animals: the commercial trade of wild animals and intensive farming systems.

Increasing direct contact with wildlife creates the ideal Petri dishes for zoonotic disease to spill over to humans, though it is not just contact with wild animals that threatens all. Factory-farmed animals forced to live in unnatural, stressful conditions also increase the risk of diseases emerging, mutating, and spreading, which pose threats to human health–such as swine flu and bird flu. Additionally, overuse of antimicrobials in factory farming contributes to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animals, which can then be transferred to people, undermining the efficacy of antimicrobials in human medicine.

We are calling for an end to wildlife exploitation and factory farming to prevent the next pandemic and better protect animals, humans, and our planet.

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This blog was authored by Heather Brown, World Animal Protection International External Affairs Manager.

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