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International Animal Welfare Efforts - Dr. Dennis Will

March 19, 2020

Dr. Dennis Will, chair of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association Animal Welfare Committee and veterinary consultant, has done work in both Vietnam and Indonesia regarding humane destruction, animal welfare, biosecurity, and African Swine Fever (ASF). He says there is a significant lack of knowledge from the highest levels of government down to front-line staff dealing with disease control.

As a follow-up to his work in Vietnam last summer he travelled to Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia in November to attend the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) Asia and Pacific Region National Focal Points training seminar on Animal Welfare. It included significant discussion on ASF, and his objective was to provide knowledge tailored to meet their local needs and conditions. It was also an opportunity to assess challenges and recognize successes.

What these countries and the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) need most is practical and hands-on national and frontline information that fits their situation; animal and disease control emergencies frequently occur in dense urban, or urbanlike environments. The North American and Western European
models frequently do not fit well.

There were 28 CVOs present at the 4-day seminar as Focal Point representatives for their respective countries. There were representatives from the OIE, Australia, New Zealand, as well as several Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), including the Commonwealth Veterinary Association that made presentations and helped lead the discussion.

Dr. Will was asked to make a presentation on humane destruction for disease control purposes as it relates to ASF. During the discussion periods that followed the presentations there was a high degree of interest and several important and practical questions from each of the Focal Point representatives. A list of challenges these countries face was identified.

It was obvious that the lack of knowledge, skills and organizational structure in Vietnam (and the region) to address humane destruction is mirrored by a similar deficit in knowledge and skills pertaining to disease control and biosecurity. To effect change and bring about improvement there must be simultaneous improvements in each of these knowledge and skill set gaps.

Dr. Will’s presentation in Bali covered all facets of a herd depopulation for disease control, as well as prerequisites in governance, organizational structure, and communication strategies. It also included the assessment of the facility and premises where the disease outbreak occurred, as well as the development of a practical plan. Animal welfare, animal handling and restraint, humane destruction, biocontainment and disease control, as well as disposal were also discussed.

Animal welfare training concerning slaughter and transport by land and at sea was provided, and the transportation by sea component was particularly interesting and informative. This region has many small countries, some of which are archipelagoes. Physical and financial resources are always challenging. 

Although there are enormous knowledge and resource gaps to be filled, there have been improvements in awareness in many of these countries. The animal welfare concerns, their efforts to bring about change, and their successes were outlined by several country representatives. As individuals they deserve praise for their ongoing efforts, in sometimes challenging circumstances.

The representative for the Commonwealth Veterinary Association was the final speaker. His summation helped provide meaning and clarity to what had been discussed. He reviewed the role each of the CVOs should play in helping raise awareness, provide leadership, and bring about effective change in their respective countries. He was empathetic, offered encouragement, and was able to provide a global view.