Since its establishment in 1924, the OIE has made a major indirect contribution to animal welfare globally, via the organisation’s involvement in epizootic disease control, and has also played a standard-setting role in respect of animal transportation through appendices in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code. In 1994, the OIE published a special issue of the Scientific and Technical Review on “Animal Welfare and Veterinary Services” (Moss 1994). This publication provided a valuable overview of the animal welfare role played by Veterinary Services in OIE Member Countries and included review articles on specific international animal welfare issues.

In recognition of the increasing scientific, political and public attention given to animal welfare in general, and its role in international trade in particular, animal welfare was identified as an important emerging issue during the preparation of the 2001-2005 OIE third strategic plan. At the 69th General Session of the OIE International Committee, approval was given to the Director General’s work programme to implement the recommendations of the strategic plan. 

“Animal Welfare: global issues, trends and challenges” is the second major animal welfare publication in the OIE Scientific and Technical Review series and is designed to provide a contemporary, and truly global, perspective on animal welfare. Detailed reviews on historical, current and future approaches to the scientific assessment of animal welfare will be complemented by perspectives and updates from the five OIE regions and selected international stakeholders. 

The publication provides a detailed account of the process followed by, and the outcome of the deliberations of, the four OIE ad hoc groups established to provide guidance on selected priority areas of international significance, i.e. the transport of animals by sea, the transport of animals by land, the slaughter of animals for human consumption, and the killing of animals for disease control purposes. Priority is also given to issues falling within the scope of the OIE animal welfare mandate, but not addressed in detail during the 2004 OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare or by existing OIE animal welfare ad hoc groups (e.g. companion animals, including exotic species; animals used for research, testing and/or teaching purposes; free-living wildlife, including their slaughter and trapping; animals used for sport, recreation and entertainment, including in circuses and zoos; genetic manipulation and cloning; and animal population reduction and control – stray dogs and cats). The 27 authors are drawn from all five OIE regions and are internationally recognised in their respective fields.

The overall objective of the publication is to communicate the international leadership role of the OIE in animal welfare issues, emphasising that animal welfare is a complex, multi-faceted international policy issue, with important scientific, ethical, economic, cultural, social, religious and regional dimensions. Science-based standards will be developed on an incremental basis as scientific information becomes available. This review will provide a unique global overview of this strategically significant subject area.