More than a billion people around the world depend on livestock production as their sole source of income. Animals provide them with food protein but they also provide work power (traction, ploughing, irrigation), a cash income and precious natural fertiliser. Animal diseases cost all these social groups dearly. The OIE estimates that, at the worldwide level, average losses due to animal diseases are more than 20%.
Access to an adequate supply of good quality food is not just an agricultural problem; it is also a worldwide public health problem and must also be approached from this point of view. Global demand for animal protein (milk, eggs, meat) is expected to rise by 50% by 2020. This is projected not only to be due to an increase in population (principally in developing countries), but a growing demand is expected from millions of poor households in emerging countries joining the middle classes. These households are changing their dietary habits and will in future be eating three meals a day, with far more milk, eggs and meat than was previously the case. Providing this growing population with access to animal protein can be greatly facilitated by reducing the losses caused by animal disease. It is important to ensure that all livestock holders in all countries have access to good quality veterinary medicines and services to ensure animal health.