06 Jan 2012

OIE Annual Report 2012 Interview

1. You delivered a first video speech as Goodwill Ambassador at OIE’s Third Global Conference on Animal welfare in Kuala Lumpur, in your opinion what is the main message the world should receive on this important matter?

My work as a UN Messenger of Peace brings me into direct contact with many major humanitarian issues, while my work with both the International Olympic Committee and the FEI obviously has a more sports-oriented perspective, so I am very honoured that the OIE has given me this opportunity to play an active role in supporting its efforts to create a better, healthier world for our animals.

The OIE’s role in establishing the standards and approach taken to improve animal health and welfare globally is crucial, and especially at a time when the world faces the challenges of climate change, globalisation and an ever-growing population to feed. Animal health is absolutely central to animal welfare and a key component to animal production, food security, public health through food safety and alleviation of poverty.

Today one billion underprivileged people worldwide rely solely on animals for their livelihoods. Animals are essential to many aspects of human life, and the OIE strives to protect the health and welfare of all animals globally in a universal manner based on sound science and standards. By adopting standards to prevent and control animal diseases, and to eliminate animal cruelty, the OIE is helping to ensure sustainable development and solidarity on an international level.

2. In an interview with Elle Magazine (French edition) you said that horses are key to equality, can you explain how these animals are carriers of universal values?

Sport improves lives, and breaks down barriers between people and nations. Equestrian sport especially does that and from a gender perspective empowers women as it is one of the few sports in which men and women compete against each other on an equal footing. Horses also teach us a great deal about the mutual trust between humans and animals and the harmony of that relationship in the sporting and working context. These values were highlighted during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic equestrian events, which were a wonderful showcase for our sport in front of a capacity crowd on-site and hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.    Horses are extremely special creatures in sport, leisure and work and the close bond mankind has with them will always exist. 

3. OIE is working with FEI on the official definition and creation of a category of lower disease risk horses. Do you think all countries will agree to the conditions proposed by FEI and OIE in due course?

The joint work between the OIE and FEI on the creation of a sub-population of high-health, high performance sport horses is key. There is a growing awareness that a number of government import and export protocols that protect against disease threats amongst the general horse population do not take into account the meticulous veterinary care of elite level, sport horses which, according to OIE principles, considerably diminishes the real risk of disease transmission. The OIE and FEI jointly called for new protocols for the movement of these “high health, high performance” sport horses at the 80th General Session of the World Assembly of OIE Delegates (20-25 May 2012). Defining and creating this sub-population of horses to reflect the high health status of top level, international sport horses will better facilitate cross-border movement and make it easier for national Veterinary Services to handle.

The existing FEI regulatory approach already provides a high level of veterinary supervision, and our aim is that competition horses travelling internationally will be viewed by governments as animals that have a substantially reduced health risk. We are upgrading that further with clear biosecurity advice that will benefit the entire equine industry. The FEI is working in close collaboration with the OIE to find a clear and safe solution that will greatly improve the current situation.  As the number of international equestrian events continues to see massive growth, and as the popularity of equestrian sport increases around the world, we are confident that many countries will agree to these new protocols for the international movement of this special sub-population of horses.

4. OIE is developing the conditions of national official freedom, voted by all OIE Member Countries, from important horse diseases (e.g. African horse sickness). Will this new procedure be useful to FEI? The FEI was a member of a working group for developing the conditions to declare a country’s freedom from certain diseases and we are looking forward to seeing all the hard work of the group and the OIE come to fruition. The FEI will play a full role on any further expert groups if required.

Presently many high health horses are being tested for diseases that have never occurred in their countries of origin, but that country has never declared its freedom from that disease. The national official freedom procedure is intrinsically linked to the successful movement of healthy, high performance horses around the world, and its adoption would greatly benefit all those involved in the global equestrian community.