UN names animal health as top priority for sustainable agriculture

The UN is calling for farmers to improve animal health and welfare.

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lays out a host of priorities including “food security and nutrition,” an ambitious plan to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. Now, the organization is defining the role of the world’s livestock caretakers in meeting that goal--naming animal health as a key part of its strategy.

At a recent meeting of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on World Food Security in Rome, the organization release draft guidelines for food security and nutrition, including 5 goals for improving animal health and welfare. Although the recommendations are voluntary, the UN believes that governments and other food-security stakeholders should embrace them.

“We must renew our efforts to build more sustainable food systems, which are better able to withstand changing weather patterns and extreme events and respond to nutritional needs,” said Elisabeth Rasmusson, assistant executive director of the UN's World Food Program, during the Rome gathering, according to the UN News Service.

The UN’s priorities for improving animal health and welfare include improving access to veterinary services and quality feed, and providing all animals the “five freedoms” as defined by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). They include freedom from hunger, fear, physical discomfort and pain, as well as the freedom to pursue normal behaviors.

The UN’s report also promotes the responsible use of antibiotics in farming, which includes phasing out use of the drugs for nonmedical purposes, such as growth promotion. That’s no surprise, seeing as the UN has become more active recently in the global effort to combat the rise of antibiotics-resistant superbugs. In September, the agency’s General Assembly tackled the issue for the first time, holding a one-day meeting in New York City to discuss antimicrobial resistance with a number of companies in the animal health industry, including Eli Lilly’s ($LLY) Elanco, Merck ($MRK) and Zoetis ($ZTS).

During the Rome gathering, the Committee on World Food Security called upon stakeholders to embrace a One Health approach to combating infectious diseases in animals, including illnesses that can be passed to people. The report suggests adhering to a One Health strategy championed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been calling upon experts in both animal and human health to work together to combat antibiotics resistance and to improve the detection and response to emerging diseases.

- access the UN report here
- check out the UN’s News Service story on the Rome meeting
- read more at Pork Network

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