Conference Participants and Honored Guests,
Welcome to Kenya. I want to start by saying that I was honored to have been invited to participate at this conference but deeply regret my inability to be with you. I am delighted to extend to you my best wishes for a successful conference on the important subject of tackling animal welfare in Africa for development. I am sure that your time at the Africa Animal Welfare Action (AAWA) conference will be fruitful.
As environmentalists whose main preoccupation has been to rehabilitate and conserve natural habits and landscapes, we have placed the welfare of animals at the centre of our thinking and work. This is because all animals, as indeed humans, depend on sustainable livelihoods.
For millennia, Africans have co-existed with animals, often only taking away from nature what they needed to sustain themselves. The non-industrialization of Africa has been both a blessing and a curse: A blessing in that so many of her wildlife have been conserved, but unfortunately also a curse because so many people are eager to commercialize their “products.” This is a great challenge for conservation and the welfare of animals in general. Modernity and “progress” has also meant a greater demand for animal products. These are all great challenges for animal welfare in Africa.
We humans share a strong evolutionary link with animals and other forms of life. As we are often reminded, our own survival depends on these other forms of life. It is therefore extremely important for us to have sense of respect and gratitude towards animals and other forms of life. To a large extent, the way we treat other forms of life is a reflection of ourselves. Poverty, underdevelopment, and ostensibly other, urgent issues may make us neglect the welfare of animals. But that is precisely why you have all convened at this conference’so that we can all remind ourselves of the important responsibility we share towards ensuring that animals are treated humanely.
As you deliberate on these important issues, I wish you much wisdom and courage in making your future decisions on the way forward. Congratulations and best wishes.
Hon. Prof. Wangari Maathai
Nobel Peace Laureate
Founder, Green Belt Movement