Healthy animals for healthy food
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Wieland, B. 2016. Healthy animals for healthy food. Presented at the First Joint International Conference of the Association of Institutions for Tropical Veterinary Medicine and the Society of Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Berlin, Germany, 4-8 September 2016. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.
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Animal-source foods (ASF) are highly nutritious. As such, they can contribute to reductions in hunger, hidden hunger and malnourishment. Conversely, high levels of ASF consumption is often linked to unsustainable production systems, disease emergence, and questionable animal welfare. In addition to being a major source of foodborne disease, they are also associated with rising antimicrobial resistance and drug residues, with potentially huge impacts on public health. These are the common notions associated with ‘healthy animals for healthy food’. However, the role of livestock goes beyond nutritional benefits and health risks. For more than one billion poor people worldwide, livestock are a key livelihood resource. They provide food and income, act as a source of draught-power to produce crops, and facilitate access to financial services – all in turn also contributing to healthy food. There are many examples that illustrate how health constraints and low productivity are related to the complexity of livestock systems in developing countries. Important to consider are challenges related to access to input and output markets, and social and cultural norms in influencing risks and benefits. The burden of disease across species and regions is a consequence of a mix of viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases—some of which zoonotic. Nevertheless, interventions largely target diseases resulting in high mortality or morbidity rates, while zoonotic and other diseases hindering productivity receive less attention. Tackling these constraints calls for approaches which simultaneously address several diseases and embrace One Health/Eco Health thinking which considers the links between animal and human health, and their linkages to the ecosystem by which they are influenced and in turn influence. Thus a key message is that poor productivity does not just lower food production. In fact, it undermines the wide range of livestock-related benefits (including resilience, power and fertilizer), and exacerbates negative livestock externalities such as increased greenhouse gas emission per kilo of livestock product, and fosters disease emergence and over-reliance on veterinary drugs. Climate change and rapidly changing livestock production systems are key drivers for emerging diseases and changes in distribution and impact of currently endemic and epidemic diseases, asking for predictive models and efficient early warning systems. Moreover, novel business models for the delivery of animal health services and other production inputs are needed to address social inequalities and improve linkages between smallholders and output markets, ensuring that everyone can access enough high quality ASFs in the future.