Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary Dr Segfredo Serrano was a guest speaker at a Workshop on Animal Welfare organised by The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in Laos on 4 May to promote improved animal welfare in South East Asia.  

The guest speakers also included New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Director of Animal Welfare, David Bayvel, Senior Advisor Animal Welfare, Joanna Tuckwell, and Indonesian Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Wiwiek Bagja.

“Dr. Serrano did the country proud,” said Anna Cabrera of The Philippine Animal Welfare Society, who was one of the 45 delegates to the said conference.

“Doc Fred underscored the importance of adopting the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW), not just for its perceived economic benefits, but because it is – and these are his words – ‘it is the right thing to do’ “ relayed Cabrera.

The Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW) is an agreement among people and nations to promote greater recognition of animal welfare as this produces benefits for animals, people and the environment.

Dr Serrano mentioned at the meeting that, “looking after animals helps farmers provide food for themselves, their families and their communities; good animal care reduces the risk of disease transmissible to humans;  responsible animal management affects land use, climate change, pollution, water supplies, habitat conservation and biodiversity for the better; and most importantly people’s attitudes and behaviour toward animals overlaps with their attitudes and behaviour toward each other.” 

However, it was his statement that it was the “right thing to do” that made an impression on the attendees because it was a call for nations to take the higher moral ground and recognize that animals are sentient and are capable of feeling, encouraging the movement towards the development of the Declaration.

Dr Serrano is an avid birdwatcher and bird photographer. He speaks passionately about protecting Philippine wildlife and their habitat. “After the convention at Laos, he took time to snap some nature photos and I caught a picture of him trying to bond with a dog of a shopkeeper. He and his family are big dog lovers,” enthuses Anna.

It was a fruitful animal welfare workshop. Delegates expressed that they needed to advance their country’s animal welfare legislation and policies. 

Lao PDR has recently introduced new veterinary law and appointed a dedicated person to oversee government policies relating to animal welfare. The government of Indonesia is establishing a National Committee on Animal Welfare to develop animal welfare education. Thailand’s National Committee on Animal Welfare has developed a five-year national strategic plan and the Thai Veterinary Association has set up a working group on animal welfare. The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture has recently published a guideline on good animal husbandry and is developing a national animal welfare strategy. Cambodia has plans to advance national animal welfare legislation based on the OIE’s Asia-Pacific Animal Welfare Strategy.

Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines and most recently Indonesia have already announced their support for the UDAW. 

The Workshop was chaired by Lao’s Director General from the Department of Livestock and Fisheries,  Dr Bounkhouang Khambounheuang and co-chaired by Malaysia’s Deputy Director-General of the Department of Livestock, Dr Ahmad Suhami bin Omar. Delegates included senior government officials from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) such as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam as well as representatives from the ASEAN secretariat and the OIE.