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Activists to UN: Make Animal Protections a Sustainable Development Goal

Jenny Donath reports as activists call for the UN to recognise the severity of global animal cruelty.

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Beyond Cruelty and other animal welfare charities have united to campaign for an 18th UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which focuses on the abolition of animal exploitation.

In order to achieve a more sustainable world, the UN has developed ‘the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDG for short, stand in focus of this plan and build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2015. These goals intend to help tackle climate change and boost international economic, social and environmental growth. Among others, they include the reduction, or preferably complete eradication, of global poverty, inequality, injustice and polluted environments.

The Impact of Animal Farming

Beyond Cruelty - a charity which promotes a cruelty-free world for animals - criticises the neglect of animal welfare on the agenda, saying it does not address certain core issues. For instance, two of the goals - No. 14 Life Below Water and No. 15 Life On Land - address the necessary conservation of marine life and the reduction of deforestation, but do not take into account the impact of agriculture or fishing.

Agriculture especially has a severe impact on the environment and its habitats due to the use of unsustainable techniques. According to National Geographic, 70 percent of all freshwater is used to irrigate crops alone. Furthermore, the provision of land for livestock can cause damage to the soil and a decrease in grass regeneration. This counteracts the SDG No. 2 Zero Hunger and No. 6 Clean Water and Sanitation, as agricultural practices currently render it impossible to provide sufficient clean water worldwide.

Why Should Animals be Considered?

Beyond Cruelty argues that the current goals are only human-centred, saying they exclude the mistreatment of animals despite underlying scientific studies that animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing a variety of feelings.

Billions of animals are killed each year for human gain. Livestock are exploited for food, such as meat and dairy products, and for the fashion industry, leather and wool being key chief examples.

Especially livestock in factories are often the victim of intentional abuse, such as beating, suffocation, or captivation in small, confined spaces, hence why the chicken - the most quantitively exploited land animal - was chosen as the representative symbol for the proposed 18th SDG.

Multiple cases of animal cruelty are reported per day, but the number of unreported cases is certainly far higher. Not much protection from animal cruelty is ensured by law, therefore giving room for damaging behaviour to continue. Common examples of animal cruelty include domesticated cats becoming victims of unhealthy hording behaviour from overzealous owners, while dogs and chickens suffer under organised cruelty for entertainment purposes, such as cock or dog fighting.

Beyond Cruelty hopes to improve these conditions by distributing information and raising awareness of their campaign on social media platforms. Claire Smith, president of the Beyond Cruelty foundation, states that ‘the addition of SDG 18 – Zero Animal Exploitation, will accelerate the transition to a compassionate, kinder, cleaner and healthier world for all’.


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