Nairobi, Kenya

Dr Walter Masiga on animal health and welfare in a changing trade and food security environment in Africa

Walter Masiga no background

Walter Masiga

Animal health and welfare in a changing trade and food security environment in Africa

Address by Dr. Walter N. Masiga
World Organisation for Animal Health




Nairobi, Kenya

Honourable Guests,
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start with a bold statement: Africa is no longer the doomed

The predictions of market gurus and Wall Street pundits
about emerging African markets and the prospects of progressively
lifting millions of Africans out of extreme poverty fill my old and
weary heart with joy. At the same time (and this is probably where
my African traditionalism kicks in) there is no denying that this
economic growth and accession of millions of our brothers and
sisters to the middle class is also a tremendous challenge.
Environmental degradation, pollution, unmanageable mega‐cities
and the ruthless quest for raw materials and land resources are
words and concepts we learned from our brothers and sisters in Asia,
in particular, China a decade ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, by 2050 we will have to share our planet with
9 billion souls, 70% of whom will live in cities. The world demand for
milk, meat and eggs will have increased by 70%. To give you a little
perspective, currently the per capita consumption of meat on our
continent is estimated at 54 kg in Southern Africa, 24 kg in North
Africa and a mere 12 kg in West Africa. Imagine what the demand for
these products would be, should prosperity in Africa meet that of in-
transition nations and those that are developed, where the annual
consumption varies from 64 to 118 kg per annum.

It therefore goes without saying that animal health and indeed,
animal welfare practices, are and will be deeply affected by the
changing political, social, cultural and environmental parameters that
challenge our conventional animal production and health systems in
Africa. This notwithstanding, there are also tremendous
opportunities for innovative approaches to help feed a rapidly
growing world population and provide consumers with varied,
healthy, and balanced animal protein.

Ladies and gentlemen, global warming affects the distribution of
many vectors of animal diseases on the continent. It also directly and
indirectly affects land‐use patterns, which are in turn exacerbated by
food security challenges such as the production of bio‐fuel crops and
land‐grabbing. The geographical coverage and frequency of
outbreaks of diseases such as West Nile fever, Bluetongue and Rift
Valley fever, as well as dengue fever, chikungunya and malaria, have
been extended due to the resilience of their vectors to the changing
patterns of temperature and rainfall. Indeed, they colonise new
territories every day. Whilst urbanisation, deforestation, and the
encroachment of human settlements into pristine nature, has
undoubtedly led to the destruction of habitats for some disease
vectors ‐ think of some tsetse fly species ‐ the closer cohabitation
between man, animal and vector has led to a tremendous increase in
re‐emerging and genuinely emerging diseases of man and animal.
This is nowhere better illustrated than in the epidemiological
hotspots, as described by Jones et al and published in Nature in
2008 (Jones KE, Patel N, Levy M, Storeygard A, Balk D, Gittleman JL,
Daszak P. Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Nature. 2008;
, where the confluence of extreme poverty, lack of hygiene
and access to potable water, close co‐habitation of livestock and man,
proximity to wildlife and man’s habit of hunting and eating bushmeat,
has given rise to an explosive cocktail of emerging and possibly
pandemic threats. Bats, primates, and rodents have been
incriminated as the origin of the threats.

Think of Ebola, Marburg disease, or even the novel corona‐virus.

Whilst global warming has affected the distribution of diseases and
hence, the distribution of livestock production in parts of Africa and
the world, livestock itself, and in particular large ruminants, have
been blamed for contributing to global warming and the greenhouse
effect. “Livestock’s long shadow” a phrase coined by the FAO in 2007,
includes the emission, by cattle and small ruminants, of methane and
other gasses from manure and stomach fermentation. These gases
are believed to contribute up to 18% of total greenhouse gas
emissions measured in CO2 equivalent.

The “long shadow” also
includes the degradation of CO2‐capturing vegetation due to
overgrazing, erosion, the deforestation undertaken to open up more
land for cattle farming, and the depletion of water resources for
cattle and livestock in general.

Ladies and Gentlemen, galloping demographics have lead to
increased conflicts between pastoralists and cultivators; food
producers and nature (wildlife) conservationists, for dwindling
natural resources. Conservationists often correctly argue that
conservation brings in more money through tourism and game
farming, than agriculture can ever hope to generate.

But is this to be regarded as sound economics in the light of countries facing food
insecurity ?

Regional integration and the globalisation of trade have led to
increasing pressure on prices, with local markets no longer allowed to
put up protectionist measures, as per the Sanitary and PhytoSanitary (SPS)
and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements of
the World Trade Organisation. Healthy competition leads to lower
prices for consumers, but un‐healthy competition results in scandals
such as the dioxin and melamine contaminations, the recent horse
meat fraud, and the alteration of halal foods with haram
contaminants, all in the name of profit. Greed and the quest for more
profits have also lead to increased use of antibiotics in food
production, most often as growth promoters, resulting in increasing –
but not always rational ‐ consumer concerns.

One of the most remarkable sectors in this respect is aquaculture
production (farmed fish), which will not only overtake marine or
fresh water capture fisheries soon, but will also supply most of our
animal protein in the latter part of this century. Indeed, by 2020,
farmed fish will account for 68% of our overall fish consumption. But
will the production of food animals on land grow at the same rate?
The buzzword is “economies of scale”. Countries like Brazil and
Argentina have taught us that accessing world markets for beef
requires a scale of operation that is mindboggling to us Africans.
Some beef exporting nations in Africa do so only by the grace of
preferential import tariffs, granted by the importing countries.
Without this preferential treatment, even these countries in Africa
we look up to, such as Namibia and Botswana would face the stiff
competition on the world markets and be unable to export.

Wouldn’t you indeed be tempted to mix your beef with a bit of
cheaper horse meat?

And what if the importing food corporation requires your beef not
only to be healthy and tasty, but also to stem from “happy cows”,
grazed on lush green pastures? Or your eggs from “free ranging”
hens, all for the same bottom price?

Faced with these challenges the institution I work for, the World
Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) attempts to devise trade
standards and international binding agreements on many of these
subjects, in a democratic manner. The OIE does this to secure the
global supply of sufficient and healthy food of animal origin.
The OIE sets standards not only for the rich nations of the west
(which already benefit from numerous private standards), but
especially for the poorer and more price‐conscious consumers as well
as livestock producers in developing countries who need to be
shielded from many of these private (often not science‐based)
standards such as the aforementioned happy cow standard.

In recent years the scope of veterinary science and practice, as it is
defined in the various Codes and Manuals of the OIE, has been
extended to include aspects of animal welfare, food safety, aquatic
animal production, wildlife and bio‐diversity, invasive species, the use
of animal pathogens for biological warfare, veterinary education and
‐ most importantly ‐ veterinary governance. Every year, trade
standards are created, revised, fine‐tuned and abolished where
needed, to ensure that the trade of livestock and livestock products is
facilitated without jeopardising food safety, condoning animal cruelty
or against discriminating poorer nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the interest of time I cannot cover the full
scope of the OIE’s activities in detail, but will highlight a few
important ones that may be of interest to you as livestock producers
and/or processors.

Let me begin with nature conservation. The role played by wild
animals as source, as well as recipient of animal diseases can no
longer be ignored or examined separately. The OIE addresses these
challenges with a view to facilitating the trade of animals and animal
products, while ensuring at the same time that consumers worldwide
benefit from safe products. Examples of actions developed in recent
years include: the supporting role of OIE focal points for wildlife in
the design and setting of new standards, as well as the increased
involvement of African states in the approval process of these
standards; the separation of disease status in domestic (and captive
wild animals) from wild animals (e.g. Newcastle disease) to avoid
unjustified trade barriers; the concepts of compartmentalisation and
of safe commodities, irrespective of disease status; the revised
definitions of wild, feral and captive wild animals; the dedicated
wildlife disease notification system WAHIS‐Wild; the new OIE
Terrestrial Animal Health Code chapters on wildlife‐specific diseases
(e.g. tuberculosis of farmed cervidae) and finally, the testing and
validation of diagnostic tests for wild species.

Which brings me to the concept of the ‘One Health Approach’. More
than another “buzz‐word”, the One Health approach endeavours to
view public health, animal health and environmental health issues
from a holistic perspective and fosters closer collaboration between
public health authorities and the corresponding competent
authorities for animal health and environmental protection. This has
led to closer collaboration, for example, between the OIE, the FAO,
the WHO and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which aim to
better predict and manage “eruptions” of diseases such as the
current H7N9 avian influenza situation in China, the Reston – Ebola
outbreaks in the Philippines, and the recent outbreak of Hanta‐virus
in the Yosemite National Park in the USA. At the national level, One
Health seeks to improve collaboration on diseases such as rabies, Rift
Valley fever, various influenza types, brucellosis etc… The Republic of
Kenya, I’m proud to say, has taken the lead in Africa with the
establishment of an inter‐ministerial Zoonotic Diseases Unit (ZDU)
which qualifies as a One Health instrument.

Food safety is also considered to be a topic that qualifies for a One
Health approach. In this regard, the OIE, in close collaboration with
the Codex Alimentarius Commission of FAO and WHO, has taken
decisive steps to address the issue of responsible and prudent use of
antibiotics and other anti‐microbials in the production of food
animals. The OIE now provides standards for the monitoring of the
quantities of antimicrobial agents used as well as antimicrobial
resistance. The OIE has also developed standards and guidelines to
provide methodologies for OIE Member Countries to appropriately
address the risk of the emergence or spread of resistant bacteria that
result from the use of antimicrobial agents in food producing

In response to the stigmatisation of ruminant production as a major
contributor to global warming, especially extensive ruminant
production systems prevalent in Africa, the OIE has been
instrumental in highlighting the positive aspects of such production
as a fundamental provider of high quality animal protein, and a
determining factor in the eradication of chronic qualitative and
quantitative malnutrition. A 2010 OIE expert group listed some
additional positive effects of livestock farming, including the
conversion of solar energy to animal products with high added value
through the consumption of plants by herbivores; and the numerous
herbivore production systems which help to maintain sylvo‐pastoral
ecosystems, contributing to the sequestration of carbon and nitrogen
derivatives, biodiversity and favourable management of water in the
river side basins concerned. These farming methods also contribute
to maintaining an open landscape; with the added advantage of the
natural organic fertiliser that the animals produce. Whilst the OIE
does not contradict the present data on livestock’s “long shadow”, it
promotes a more balanced approach to listing disadvantages and
advantages of ruminant production systems, and definitely a more
prudent approach to any long‐term forecasting in the absence of
sound models at this time.

Finally, the OIE has invested considerable resources and expertise in
providing a sound scientific basis for animal welfare standards,
hitherto entirely handled by the global private agri‐food business as
so called industry or private standards. In the past 3 years, a string of
new international standards have been adopted on difficult issues
such as the humane killing of animals (including farmed fish) for
consumption or for disease control purposes, welfare of laboratory
animals, control of stray dog populations, regulation of beef
production systems and ‐ this past May ‐ broiler chicken production

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, my talk is not intended to be
exhaustive; I merely wanted to point out that livestock production
and ‐ in extension ‐ animal health are not static sectors. The world
around us is changing for better or for worse, science and technology
are evolving, diseases appear and disappear, habits change and new
approaches emerge. While being a livestock farmer might very well
be the second oldest job in the history of mankind, the profession has
rarely seen such change as has been witnessed in the last two
decades. Our sons and daughters will live in a completely different
“animal husbandry” landscape than the one in which we grew up and
‐ although I’m of course slightly biased ‐ I hope that the OIE, as the
specialist animal health advisory agency under the SPS ‐ Agreement
will remain relevant for a long time to come, as it was in the past, for
example – during the eradication of rinderpest.

I thank you very much.

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