One Health and Development Initiative (OHDI) works to address interrelated issues of human, animal, and environmental health in the ecosystem through an integrated One Health approach. Across the spectrum of One Health, Animal Welfare remains one of our focus areas of work and this particularly involves promoting the public education, adoption, and implementation of animal welfare practices, activities, and policies.
The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) defines animal welfare as “the physical and mental state of an animal in relation to the condition in which it lives and dies”. This takes into cognizance of an animal’s health, well-being, sentience (referring to its mental state), and the need for an animal to express its normal behavior, and live a life free of restrictions, pain, and suffering. This is well represented in the globally renowned principles of the ‘Five Freedoms of Terrestrial Animals’ which include:
- freedom from hunger, malnutrition, and thirst;
- freedom from fear and distress;
- freedom from heat stress or physical discomfort;
- freedom from pain, injury, and disease; and
- freedom to express normal patterns of behavior.
It has been well proven that good animal welfare practices have a multi-faceted impact on several spheres of health and development by contributing to improved animal health and productivity, reducing the risk of zoonotic diseases transmission, improving food quality, nutrition and safety, better environmental health, and enhancing trade, socio-economic development, and sustainable livelihoods.
To demonstrate and proceed with our mandate to improve animal welfare, OHDI is pleased to announce her confirmation of membership and partnership with the Open Wing Alliance (OWA) to strongly support the fight to end the abuse of chickens worldwide through the elimination of battery cages which are considered cruel to their existence. Hen welfare is one of the most neglected among food animals, especially considering the fact that hens are the most commonly farmed land animal species in the world currently estimated at 20 billion. In Nigeria, the farmed hen population is high – estimated at 180 million – the second-largest in Africa and the highest in West Africa. Out of these, over 100 million of these birds are farmed either in intensive or semi-intensive systems indicating that they live their lives in restricted housing and environments (especially battery cages), accompanied by pain and suffering and an inability to express their normal behaviors. Through rapidly growing factory farming practices in the country, these hens have been subjected to the cruelest form of management practices by the use of battery cages which ultimately deprives them of the laws of freedom that binds animal welfare. Therefore, to ensure that poultry management practices align with global welfare standards, improved hen health, and with the expectations of consumers (which are significantly changing over time with higher demands for high-welfare poultry products) – improving the welfare of Hens is very indicative of vital steps to take in moving the poultry industry forward.
The Open Wing Alliance is a coalition of animal protection organizations globally that are united in a shared goal to put an end to the ill-treatment of chickens throughout the world. Launched by The Humane League in 2016, the Open Wing Alliance currently pulls together 82 member organizations from 63 countries around the world to engender a unified front in campaigns to put an end to cruel battery cages from our world where egg-laying hens become free from such cages. OHDI will henceforth be working hand in hand with OWA by strategically including cage-free work and campaigns as a core part of our Animal Welfare activities. We intend to get this done over time by kicking off with baseline research that will enable us to get a deeper insight into the attitudes and perceptions amongst the relevant stakeholders for cage-free systems within the Nigerian poultry industry. After which further steps will be taken by conducting a stakeholder’s analysis to see how to best engage them in our proposed community outreach and corporate campaigns. We believe these initial steps would play vital roles in our intervention strategies in advocating for cage-free systems in Nigeria.
In conclusion, OHDI is fully committed to the goals and missions of the Open Wing Alliance with regards to ensuring that cage-free systems become a norm in Nigeria and significantly contribute to improving Animal Welfare. In view of the above, some of the expected outcomes include but are not limited to the following;
- Hens will be able to live their lives without restrictions and freely display natural behaviors
- There will be less risk of zoonoses and a reduction in the use of antibiotics, ultimately leading to better health performance and increased productivity
- Pain and suffering will be significantly reduced which is inclusive of their mental health with fewer abnormal behavioral displays seen.
- This will contribute to farmers adopting progressive sustainable farming systems to improve animal, human, and ecosystem health in line with the objectives of the One Health approach.
We believe that this will bring about a positive ripple multi-sectoral effect on the poultry industry, food sector as well as health sector in Nigeria.