Kenyan farmers keep more animals believing that is the way to make more profits, not knowing this is their major undoing.
Lack of information on welfare of animals greatly contributes to their suffering and meagre profits for the farmer.
Tabitha Kimani, the regional socio-economist at the FAO’s Emergency Centre, said animal farmers are missing out on bumper profits because they do not know how to better take care of their huge flock.
“Keeping more animals makes it hard to manage them well, especially by smallholder farmers, leading to poor welfare. Healthy animals produce more,” Dr Kimani said during Transform Kenya live interview hosted by KTN News
and KTN Farmers TV
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Victor Yamo, a manager at World Animal Protection (WAP), said animals have five freedoms that ensure their mental and physical well-being.
“They include freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom to express normal behavior, freedom from pain, injury, or disease and freedom from fear and distress,” he said.
Dr Yamo explained that if animals are kept well, free from diseases, they give maximum produce.
“Farmers do not understand the connection between animals’ welfare and the production,” he said.
He warned that the antibiotics farmers give their animals in the name of preventive medicine are not only harmful to the flocks themselves but also to humans.
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“We give lots of antibiotics to our animals, without knowing they enter their bodies before they get into us as our food on our tables,” he said.
He cited contaminated maize fed to animals as harmful first to the animal and the people who consume their products.
Steve McIvor, the CEO for WAP, said it is important to treat animals well.
“Animals are part of our diversity. They play very important roles in our lives and if we fail to treat them well, we end up losing them,” he said.
Animals must be treated when sick, he said.
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“If not, they affect the health of people and the environment.”
Dr McIvor said animals need to be kept in their natural state, and that those in cages lose their natural instincts and cannot perform well.
Joan Magero, the assistant director of Veterinary Services in the State Department of Livestock, said the government has many policies that protect the welfare of the animals, but enforcement is a challenge.
“We have good legislations, almost 20, that touch on the welfare of animals. However, just like in many areas, enforcement is the greatest challenge,” she said.
Dr Magero challenged everyone to take care of their animals, since they are ones meant to benefit from them.
She urged Kenyans to report any cases of cruelty towards animals, even if the perpetrators are their family friends and neighbours.
The experts called for more campaigns to empower Kenyans to understand proper care of animals.
They accused the government of encouraging youths and women to use cages in poultry farming.
Magero encouraged farmers to visit government agricultural institutions for advise on how to manage livestock.
Kimani said it is unfair that during disasters, animals are left behind to suffer and die.