The United Nations (UN) adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 was a landmark moment, given that the member states had committed to working towards achieving a future without hunger and poverty, safe from the negative effects of climate change (among other issues). While the SDGs had a wide scope, a missing element in them was the value of animal welfare in attaining this future.

Given the complexity of the task at hand, not all relevant areas or aspects of animal welfare’s contribution to sustainable development would be captured. Nevertheless, there are areas where animals play a visible role in this regard, including transport, livelihoods, employment and food security. In the years since, there has been a concerted effort to remedy this and ensure animal welfare is embraced, and ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly on 28th February 2022 (in Nairobi, Kenya), seven countries from Africa and Asia tabled a resolution that sought to highlight the importance of animal welfare in sustainable development.

Specifically, the proposed resolution calls for countries to view animal welfare as an important aspect of their sustainable development efforts, and requests for the creation of a report and awareness strategy that underlines the important connection between these aspects. To observers and animal welfare advocates such as Michael Kern, Craniosacral Therapy Educational Trust founder, the resolution represents a significant step in global sustainable development governance, given the issue had largely been neglected.

Animal Welfare is Vital

As it has been noted, many of the targets contained in the 2030 SDGs failed to reference the importance of animal wellbeing, which is an oversight the 2022 resolution sought to correct. The resolution reminds the world that animals ‘are an essential part’ of our ecosystems and that the COVID-19 pandemic brought into focus the strong relationship between human and animal health and welfare. Therefore, member states need to protect animals and their habitats, meet animal welfare requirements to restore ecosystems, prevent pollution, stop the loss of biodiversity, mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce the risk of the emergence of infectious zoonotic diseases, among other aspects. Put together, these benefits encapsulate how states can achieve sustainable development.

Promoting animal welfare has direct and indirect financial effects and can help to reduce poverty. For countries to truly integrate animal welfare into sustainable development, they have to see it as a common good and an ethical obligation that requires shared responsibility between all stakeholders.