Rep laments poor treatment of animals as stakeholders share ideas at 4th Africa Animal Welfare Conference

Posted by News Express | 15 September 2020 | 880 times

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•Rep member, Hon. Garba Datti Muhammad


The pursuit of a functional, sustainable and fair planet through conservation of the earth’s biodiversity came to fore recently at the 4th Africa Animal Welfare Conference. The annual event, which was virtual this year, was co-hosted by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).

Delivering a keynote address, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Hon. Garba Datti Muhammad, lamented how poorly animals are treated and indeed relegated to the background in the everyday events by man. He stressed that though animals are not less important in the scheme for the existence of survival of man and universe, they are regrettably always at the base in the hierarchy of concerns.

“Animal welfare,” according to Muhammad, “can hardly be overstated given the cruel and unusual punishment that animals are usually subjected to in our continent and elsewhere. The threats to wildlife are innumerable including the reckless and self-serving activities of poachers.

“The threats to environmental conservation are similarly numerous, including oil splits and deforestation. These components of the theme, therefore, have at their mutual core the sustainability of Africa’s animals’ resources. So do Nature-based Solution (NBS).

“It’s commendable that the theme of this conference underlines the neglected link between animal farming, wildlife and animal conservation on the one hand on sustainable development on the other.”

He equally emphasised with pains that a group of erudite scholars critically noted that the SDGs do not acknowledge the impact of animals towards their attainment, pointing out that “the condition of animals in achieving the SDGs is not recognise nor made explicit. Nevertheless, there are obvious areas where animals play important roles in the context of sustainable development. These include for instance food security, transportation, employment and livelihood.

“Not a mention of animals in the SDGs! Take donkeys for instance – according to some statistics, over six hundred million households in rural communities around the world depend on the donkey, which is now classified by the United Nations as ‘Working Livestock’, for their survival. Just donkeys. What about chickens, goats, cattle etc. However, I prefer to see this enormous vacuum, upon which many might call the SDGs elitist, as an innocent lacuna. After all, even the elite eventually, if not invariably, interact with animals and livestock.”

Continuing, he said: “Our relationship with animals in Africa is quite peculiar, quite different from other civilisations. Perhaps no civilisation is as dependent on animals, in varying capacities, as African i.e. Transport, food, companions, appliance among others things. But as connected as we are to them, there is always a reason for decimation of animals in Africa. Dogs are religiously mistreated. Cats are killed in many places based on the unproven superstitious links to the occult. As central as they have been to our sustenance, there has been little or no proactive effort to safeguard, if not improve the welfare of animals in the continent. This deficit is capable of and in some instances stunted the growth of many a nation, particularly the agro-based economies. The political class, of which I am a member, prides itself at being as close to the grassroots as its jugular, but has unfortunately done so little for a constituency so close to the grassroots i.e. the animals. The time has, therefore come for change and for the realization, in welfare and conservation terms, that we serve our people best when we ‘serve’ our animals.

“This being the case, the time has come for politician like me, in our various capacities as law and policy makers and implementers, to drive reform in the way we treat animals in Africa through local, national and regional legislation.

“Indeed, you will recall that the donkey had been subjected to unprecedented trauma until we summoned the vision, courage and resolve to sponsor legislation to bring an end to it. Today, the official policy of Nigerian Federal Government is that the killings of donkeys and donkey skin trade are banned while the Bill itself is on the verge of being passed by the National Assembly. The lesson to be taken away from such proactive initiatives are self-evident. Thus, a first step towards preserving our animals would be to send the communiqué at the end of this conference to ALL Governments and Parliaments across Africa to exhort them to action. And I for one cast my vote of support for the Universal Declaration on Animals Welfare (UDAW) as well as a follow-up broad international convention.”

Proffering solutions, the lawmaker emphasised the role of civil society groups in this sphere, saying role of civil society must also be broadened. The Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) has been at the forefront of efforts to sensitise and inspire our continent about the importance of plight of animals in Africa.

“Sadly, few others have taken up this responsibility of creating a synergy of purpose of action between government and the people as well as peaceful and mutual coexistence between animals.

“Working together, the political class and civil societies can sensitize, inform and educate the masses of our people as we as remedy silence of the SDGs by bringing animal welfare, wildlife and conservation to the foreground of any discussion of the SDGs in this last nine or ten years of its lifespan,” he said.

Some of the objectives of the conference are to assess the implications of COVID-19 pandemic and future zoonoses on human health, animal welfare, wildlife and environmental conservation and their threat to attainment of sustainable development goals. It also focuses on illustrating the progress in harnessing the link between animal welfare, wildlife and environmental conservation, human and animal health and sustainable development in Africa. It will ultimately establish a focused and well-informed caucus of animal welfare practitioners and stakeholders who are cognizant of prevailing developments in all aspects of this sector while assessing the role of using natural solutions in achieving our desires for food security and tackling the challenges of development in Africa. This they said shall illustrate progress towards mainstreaming Animal Welfare in the United Nations and Member States across Africa and championing the gains realised through the African Platform for Animal Welfare (APAW) as well as establishing the role of governments, individuals, organizations, and communities in achieving responsible use of animals, improving animal welfare, and supporting environmental conservation in Africa.

Other speakers at the conference were Hon. Justice Oscar Amugo Angote, Judge of the Environment and Land Court Machakos, Kenya, Prof. Delci Winders of the Centre for Animal Law Studies, USA, Ellie Donohue-Miller, Campaigns Manager, Open Wing Alliance, USA and Dr. Mwenda Mbaka of the World Animal Protection.

Source: News Express

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