Written by Celina Tang, Sukham Brar, and Paula Magbor
Edited by Jocelyn Tan and Kyla Finlayson
Before we dive into this topic, we would like to preface this segment by saying that although humans belong to the kingdom, Animalia, when referring to “animals” in the context of One Health, it usually is specifying nonhuman animals. Now that that is out of the way, let us begin our discussion on animal health!
Why Animal Health?
Animal health often gets framed in the context of how it impacts human health, but a vital aspect of this One Health pillar is remembering that achieving optimal health is important for the animals’ own wellbeing, too. There is no doubt that animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing emotions and pain. These findings have contributed to efforts by several organizations, such as the Humane Society and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to minimize unnecessary pain when working with animals and improve overall animal welfare.
Furthermore, companion animals, livestock, and wildlife are integral parts of our lives. If you have ever walked a dog or played with a cat, you know first-hand the mental and physical health benefits that come with having a companion animal. Additionally, animals may also be more sensitive to changes in our environment and act as sentinel species to indicate when all is not well in the environment. Unfortunately, this means they often get the brunt of the ecological impacts of human activity. For example, over the years, environmental contaminants, such as smog, mercury, and lead, were first identified due to the changes they caused to the behaviour and well-being of certain animals. In addition to these factors, animals can spread and contribute to zoonotic diseases.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has become increasingly aware of the interconnectedness between animal, human, and environmental health. COVID-19 is a prime example of a zoonotic disease, which is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that spreads between animals and humans. Zoonotic diseases are commonly spread between animals and people by direct or indirect contact and are either vector-borne, foodborne, or waterborne. Some of the priority zoonoses in Canada are rabies, West Nile, avian influenza, and Lyme disease. The three One Health pillars are involved in each of these zoonotic diseases. For example, Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Blacklegged ticks are the reservoirs for this disease and can transmit the disease to humans and animals through direct contact. There is also an increasing concern of changes to vector distribution due to climate change that could impact the prevalence of this disease. From a One Health perspective, improving prevention, detection, and response strategies against emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases can help to minimize future health consequences.
From Farm to Fork
It is inevitable that livestock plays a vital role in the economy and for our health. With that being said, the “Farm to Fork” concept encompasses animal and human sectors working together to protect health and ensure food safety and security throughout the process of getting food to consumers from animals raised on farms. In the process of getting from farm to fork, animals must be monitored, cared for, analyzed, and inspected for hygiene to ensure their optimal health and that they are free from any potential diseases or unsanitary practices. This in-depth monitoring is taken care of by veterinarians, as well as other workers throughout the process of production, transport, slaughterhouse, processing/storage/distribution, and supermarket/restaurant steps. It relates to the concept of One Health as it heavily takes into account the three pillars of One Health, all the while understanding the important role of many individuals, such as veterinarians, to ensure optimal health. The animal health pillar is addressed in this concept, as it recognizes that the animals must be actively monitored and their quality of life (food and environment) is hygienic and optimizes their health, so they are free from infectious diseases or other risk factors. The human health pillar is addressed through this concept because by ensuring the animals are healthy, it is also ensuring the health of consumers. Lastly, by ensuring optimal animal health and welfare, and therefore ensuring optimal human health, ecosystem health is also addressed. Preventing the spread of infectious diseases in the “Farm to Fork” concept means that our environment is also being monitored, as infectious diseases can spread to other species, leading to food chain effects and other negative impacts.
With the animal pillar discussion complete, keep an eye out for next blog focusing on human health, which will wrap up our One Health Blog Series.
We are so excited to announce that we will be wrapping up our year with a case competition on March 23, 2021. More details will come out on our social media regarding it soon!