Beauty and the beef

The Wildlife Conservation Society congratulates animal health and wildlife conservation experts from SADC on their adoption of additional, environmentally friendly ways to manage trade-sensitive animal diseases like foot and mouth, with an aim towards easing tensions at the livestock-wildlife interface.


ACROSS the Southern African Development Community (SADC), livestock and wildlife both represent economic growth opportunities in an increasingly globalised world.

However, costs associated with current fencing-based zone approaches to managing international trade-associated animal disease risks such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) often limit the livestock sector’s access to regional and international markets.

In addition, many attempts to meet international standards related to freedom from disease under historically prevailing policies have had significant negative repercussions for free-ranging wildlife, largely related to the many kilometres of veterinary cordon fencing needed to separate wildlife and livestock. Given the importance of both the livestock and wildlife sectors to many countries across southern Africa today, SADC has decided it is time to re-evaluate how best to manage risks from diseases like foot and mouth in ways that help Africa’s pastoralists and farmers. SADC has decided to re-evaluate ways that do not threaten free-ranging wildlife, and also provide confidence to beef importing countries that the products they are buying pose minimal threats to their own agricultural sector.

SADC experts have thus agreed to explore approaches to the safe trade of beef and beef products based on the safety of the meat production process itself, rather than focusing on where a particular cow has come from.

The experts agreed to this at a just concluded conference in Botswana entitled “Reconciling Livestock Health and Wildlife Conservation Goals in Southern Africa: Strategies for Sustainable Economic Development”.

By focusing on straightforward pre-slaughter management principles, meat hygiene and quality processing, SADC producers can produce fresh chilled beef and related products without FMD risk by applying the same HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) management systems used to ensure that food is safe for human consumption.

“With the SADC Livestock Technical Committee adopting commodity-based trade as per the OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health) as an additional regional standard, the door is open to a truly win-win opportunity both for livestock farmers and the wildlife sector.

“And [it is also open] for tourism and related industries involved with the new trans-frontier conservation areas or ‘peace parks,’” Dr. Mark Atkinson noted of the Animal & Human Health for the Environment and Development (AHEAD) programme.

AHEAD is one of SADC’s partners in this new era of collaboration between the livestock and wildlife sectors.

“If livestock agriculture is no longer solely dependent on veterinary fencing to deal with foot and mouth disease, then SADC’s vision for the restoration of major movement corridors for the region’s spectacular wildlife indeed has a chance of being realised.

“In addition, with commodity-based trade and the local value-added processing it encourages livestock farmers previously excluded from accessing markets who may for the first time be able to find traction in the wider regional economy and beyond,” Dr. Atkinson added.

“There is still a lot of groundwork to be laid to optimise regional land-uses so that trans-frontier conservation and livestock agriculture can literally find common ground in the interest of regional economic development underpinned by earnest environmental stewardship,” Dr. Steve Osofsky said

Osofsky currently heads the AHEAD Programme for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Over time, as the region gains more experience with commodity-based trade, we hope member states will be able to seize upon the socio-economic as well as conservation opportunities offered by SADC’s collective vision for trans-frontier conservation areas as enabled by strategic alignment and realignment of selected veterinary cordon fences.

“At the same time, commodity-based trade should facilitate expansion of livestock farmers’ access to international markets based on additional, practical disease control policy options.

“We stand ready to assist our SADC colleagues, sharing in their belief that sustainable development and environmental conservation are in fact inextricably linked.” – The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Animal & Human Health for the Environment and Development Programme.