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A new international treaty for animal welfare and pandemic prevention.

The Convention on Animal Protection (CAP) is a draft treaty prepared by Lawyers for the Convention on Animal Protection, a team of practicing lawyers and legal academics specialized in international law and animal law following the passage by the American Bar Association House of Delegates in February 2021 of Resolution 101C.

The resolution “urges all nations to negotiate an international convention for the protection of animals that establishes standards for the proper care and treatment of all animals to protect public health, the environment, and animal wellbeing.” The focus of the CAP is on global animal well-being, public health and the environment as an effective tool to mitigate the risk of future pandemics.

Our team has received many comments on our first draft from members of government, civil society, and international organizations. We are in the process of redrafting the Convention on Animal Protection, and look forward to sharing our second draft soon.

The CAP contains four parts: an introduction, substantive provisions, provisions on functioning of the treaty, and an annex identifying species with a high risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases and other pathogens to humans and other animals.

In particular, the CAP provides regulations on human interactions with animals in several broad categories:

  • all animals (Article 1);

  • animals deemed to have a high risk of hosting viruses or other pathogens that pose a serious risk to public or animal health (Article 4);

  • companion animals (Article 10);

  • commercial animals (Article 11);

  • animals used in scientific research and testing (Article 12); and

  • animals used in entertainment (Article 13).

The CAP provides general fundamental principles in accordance with the One Health approach, which recognizes the inherent interconnectedness of animal well-being, public health, and the environment. These principles provide that humans have an obligation to act responsibly toward animals and their habitats, among other sentiments (Article 1).

Regulations aimed to prevent future pandemics include systems of identifying high-risk animals and prohibiting and restricting certain human interactions with these animals, including the capture, consumption, sale, and trade of these animals (Article 4).

The CAP also contemplates the adoption of the first sets of international minimal standards of care for animals, including obligations to provide animals suitable and sufficient food and water, adequate shelter from adverse environmental conditions, and adequate opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation (Articles 10, 11, 12, and 13). The draft treaty also contains more specific standards for animal transportation (Article 9), animals used in scientific research and testing (Article 12), and companion animals (Article 10).

The CAP seeks to regulate human interaction with wildlife, the transportation of animals, and human treatment of companion animals, commercial animals, and animals used in research and entertainment. The CAP also contemplates the negotiation of subsequent protocols on specific areas of animal protection at a greater level of detail than the general principles set out in the treaty itself.

Purposes and considerations that influenced the drafting of the CAP

ACKNOWLEDGING that inappropriate contact with and treatment of animals by humans is a risk factor for the emergence and transmission of zoonotic viruses and other pathogens such as COVID-19, which can be mitigated through coordinated international action integrating human health, animal health, and the protection of the environment through the One Health concept,

RECOGNIZING that humans derive many diverse benefits from their associations with and utilization of animals,

DECLARING that animals, as sentient beings, have inherent dignity, worth, and welfare interests that must be conceived of broadly and whose well-being must be protected,

ADMITTING that human interactions with and uses of animals often fail to account for and protect the well-being of animals,

RECOGNIZING that the proper treatment of animals and their habitat has positive impacts on the environment, human health, and cultural and economic development,

CONSIDERING that animals cross borders, both with and without human assistance,

UNDERSTANDING that other treaties do not address the question of animal well-being in the context of public health and the environment,

RECOGNIZING that the limited powers of the World Organisation for Animal Health to enforce animal health standards are inadequate to ensure control of viruses and other pathogens, and that additional international obligations are required within a treaty context to ensure the effective protection of the lives, health, and well-being of animals globally with minimum standards,

BELIEVING that the codification and progressive development of the matters addressed in this Convention will contribute to the strengthening of public health, environmental protection, peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations in conformity with the principles of coexistence of species and in line with the One Health approach,

ACKNOWLEDGING that animal well-being is a complex issue that has cultural, social, religious, political, economic, and scientific components, and

SEEKING to provide leadership for the better protection of animals with the consequent benefits to the natural environment and public health including minimizing the risk of future zoonotic viruses and other pathogens and related epidemics and pandemics, these Contracting Parties do hereby enter into this Convention.

The focus of the CAP is on global animal well-being, public health, and the environment as an effective tool to mitigate the risk of future pandemics