Animal rights must be protected to guarantee safety of end products

In the recent past, we have seen a number of incidents involving handling of animals that culminated in the Director of public Prosecutions Noordin Haji issuing a warning to the public against cruelty against animals in Kenya.

Concerns range from handling animals, to treatment, especially relating to the use of animal products. The killing of a dog by a family that was facing starvation, the handling of donkeys in the abattoirs to transporting chicken openly is a violation of the freedom of animals and affects the use of animal products by consumers.

While animals have no rights, thus no human rights for animals, they have freedoms that are protected in several global and national laws and conventions. A number of laws protect the animals freedom from hunger & thirst, discomfort, pain and disease, express normal behaviour, and above all because of public health demands it is important that animals are well taken care of and treated humanely. Suffice to note that animals are sentient beings i.e. they can feel, experience and suffer.

They are a number of people who stopped consuming animal products simply because of witnessing how the animals were treated before slaughter, the kind of treatment given during their lifetime. It is more serious when the animal products are meant for export or for markets where clients care about the quality of the animal products.

Dr. Victor Yamo, Farming Campaigns Manager, Animals in Farming at the World Animal Protection, recently noted that there is a strong correlation between how animals are raised and the quality of the end product – the meat that ends up on our tables. It is, therefore, important that farmers ensure that the animals they produce enjoy their five animal freedoms.

In most selling joints in high-end locations, consumers demand evidence of quality assurance such as antibiotic-free, higher welfare produced meat and meat products from the outlets where they obtain their meat and meat products. My neighbour in the village has over 18 dogs which he rarely care about where they eat or sleep and are clearly stray dogs with a high likelihood to spread rabies.

The dogs have caused havoc in the village and the guy does not know that he is violating the animals’ welfare issues. And there is Mwalimu Kardi, who despite a warning from neighbours on the possibility of them poisoning his goats and cattle, which he has left roaming in peoples farms in the village, even with neighbours having reported him to the police and relevant authorities, he does not care- what happens if they are poisoned and locals feast on the meat?

In Kenya, there are several laws that relate to animal freedom protection including the Vet surgeons & vet para-professionals Act Cap 3660, Prevention of Cruelty Act 360 (1962), Meat Control Act Cap 356, the animal disease Act (Cap 364), the Rabies Act (Cap 365) and the fertilizers and animal foodstuffs Act (Cap 321).

Outside the laws and the recent warnings by the DPP against violating animal freedom rights, it’s emerging from recent studies that consumers are willing to pay more for meat that are antibiotic-free, chemical-free and from higher welfare production systems.

According to a report launched recently by the World Animal Protection, meat consumers place a high premium on meat that is produced without antibiotics and is safely transported to the market for slaughter. 76.4% of the people interviewed, link use of antibiotics in animals to poor human health and diseases.

Over 80 % of the people interviewed are keen on food safety and this had a huge influence on their purchasing decisions – including willing to pay more for humanely produced meat and related products.

In addition, 75 % of people interviewed would stop sourcing as well as tell family and friends to stop if they knew supermarkets sourced meat products from poor animal welfare producers.
Of significant importance is that consumers are willing to pay more if they are assured that the meat products are free of antibiotics and chemicals, the animals were raised and transported in higher welfare conditions before being slaughtered humanely.

82.7 % of the respondents would purchase more meat and meat products with a food safety assurance marker from supermarkets and fast food restaurants while 52.9% of the respondents will purchase more if the production was environmentally friendly and 68.8 % of the people interviewed said they will purchase more if assured the meat is free of chemicals.

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