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a whale swimming in the ocean--sustainable development policy must include animal welfare

“…the time has come to recognize that sustainable development matters for animals, and animals matter for sustainable development.”
~ The authors of “Mainstreaming Animal Welfare in Sustainable Development”

Despite the fact that the health and wellbeing of nonhuman animals is intrinsically important to animals and vital to the wellbeing of humans, animal interests remain a neglected and marginalized issue when it comes to sustainable development policies and practices.

In this article, the authors discuss the important relationship between animal interests and sustainable development, and they identify “key policy opportunities” for integrating the interests of individual animals and their communities into local and global sustainable development policies.

As they note, in 2015, the world’s governments adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a stated vision in which humans live “in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected.” But, Verkuijl and her fellow authors note that “none of the Agenda’s 169 targets reference the welfare of individual animals.”

Instead, the focus of the 2030 Agenda is on short-term human interests and needs.

The article’s authors identify three key pathways for “mainstreaming” animal interests into sustainable development policies and practices:

  • integrating animal interests into international policy and legal instruments, such as by
    • strengthening and expanding a just One Health framework
    • including animal interests in government declarations
    • securing legal rights for nonhuman animals in legally binding instruments
  • improving national and local policies to promote animal interests while ensuring other social, health, and development goals are met, such as by
    • increasing information, transparency, and education around animals and their interests
    • incentivizing activities that support and expand animal protection and disincentivizing those that cause harm
    • implementing regulations for industries that impact people, animals, and the planet
    • providing financial and other support for a just transition toward mainstreaming protections for animals
  • paving the way for additional action through research, awareness raising, capacity building, representation, and international cooperation, such as by
    • investing in learning more about what animals need to be healthy and happy and about how they’re affected by humans
    • increasing representation for nonhuman animals in decision making
    • facilitating international cooperation and support

As the authors note, “Bringing animal welfare into the realm of sustainable development is an opportunity to create a healthier, more compassionate and more sustainable world for all.”


Read the article.


Article citation:

Verkuijl, Cleo, Jeff Sebo, Maria José Hötzel, Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers, Ploy Achakulwisut, Mairon Bastos Lima, and Jonathan Green. “Mainstreaming Animal Welfare in Sustainable Development: A Policy Agenda.” Stockholm+50 background paper series. Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm (May 2022).

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