OIE can draw expertise to assist [in the] achievement of its mission. Currently, there are 171 reference laboratories and 24 collaborating centers.
Animal welfare is a new area for the OIE. There is potential for collaborating centers to be established in each of the OIE’s regions to support its work in animal welfare. A group in Italy that has recognition for veterinary training, epidemiology, and food safety is also playing a role in animal welfare. We in New Zealand sought recognition for the animal welfare science and bioethics center at Massey University headed by Professor David Mellor. There is opportunity for other centers to achieve that recognition and assist the OIE over the next few years and decades.
Two or three years ago, the 172 member countries expressed a desire that the OIE play some role in the laboratory animal welfare area. The initial decision was to establish a dialogue with existing international organizations, particularly ICLAS and IACLAM, and to identify common interests. A formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) has now been signed with ICLAS, which is similar to the OIE’s MOUs with other international organizations to allow for information sharing and mutual participation in identifying areas for synergy, with the goal of emphasizing the role of the veterinary profession generally and of veterinary services in particular.
The OIE has a four-year strategic planning cycle and in the period from 2001 to 2005 some building blocks for animal welfare were established, and guiding principles in animal welfare were identified at the first OIE global conference in Paris. The profile of animal welfare was further enhanced in the strategic plan for the period 2006-2010. The OIE has published and promulgated a set of nine guiding principles, with emphasis on the linkage between health and welfare, something that often is not fully appreciated and recognized by the public at large or by politicians.
The OIE has a mandate on animal welfare in the use of animals in scientific studies and education. OIE supports appropriate animal use in the fields that are relevant to animal health and welfare and animal production food safety, including research and development of veterinary medicines, diagnostic tests and vaccines, and education of veterinarians and other professionals. Another program established under OIE auspices is the International Cooperation on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Veterinary Medicinal Products (VICH). In addition, the OIE can help in the international facilitation of adoption of nonanimal tests where scientifically validated. This will complement work done in Europe by the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) and work done in the US by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM).
The mission of the OIE Animal Welfare Working Group, which I have chaired since 2002, is to provide international leadership in animal welfare through the development of science-based standards and guidelines, provision of expert advice, and the promotion of relevant education and research. The working group represents the five OIE regions; Professor David Fraser from the University of British Columbia represents the Americas. We consider the available