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Freshfields partner co-authors report leading to American Bar Association resolution for negotiation of an international animal welfare treaty to reduce risk of future pandemics and establish minimum standards for treatment of animals

The ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution on February 22, 2021, calling for the US State Department to lead the negotiation of an international convention for the protection of animals to protect public health, the environment and animal wellbeing.

The resolution and supporting report were co-authored by a four member committee including Freshfields’ international arbitration partner, Nigel Blackaby QC.  The other members were Joan Schaffner, Associate Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School and co-chair of the ABA’s International Animal Law Committee, Rajesh K. Reddy, Director of the Global Animal Law Program at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School and Professor David Favre, Professor of Property and Animal Law at Michigan State University, whose pioneering work on a draft Treaty led to the initiative.

The report supporting the resolution highlights how the risk of diseases spilling over to humans from animals (zoonotic diseases) is directly related to human mistreatment of animals, including through the wildlife trade and destruction of natural habitats from human activity and climate change. COVID-19 is one such spillover event, but the list includes other deadly viruses such as AIDS, SARS, Nipah Virus, and Ebola. Whilst this interconnection between public health, the environment, and animal welfare is recognized by the concept of One Health embraced by the United Nations and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no international treaty by which nation states have agreed to minimal standards of animal welfare. A plethora of widely differing national standards is not an adequate response to risks that do not respect national boundaries.

Nigel’s work was supported by invaluable research and support from an internal pro bono team of Alex Wilbraham, Nicolas Cordoba, Emily Jelly and Rosario Galardi.  He noted: “This resolution paves the way for a concerted effort towards coordinated international action to respect minimum standards of treatment for animals in a manner which will minimize the risks of the spillover that led to the current pandemic. It is an initiative that will have far reaching consequences for public health and the environment as well as animal welfare and I am delighted that the ABA has shown true leadership on one of the pressing issues of our time.”  

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