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Animal advocacy in Zimbabwe

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Top opportunities for improving animal welfare and community health

This report was written in collaboration with Sibanye Animal Welfare Trust to inform their work improving animal welfare in Zimbabwe. Our deepest thanks to Wasseem Emam and Yvonne Gurira for consultation and extensive feedback on the report.

Executive summary

We have a responsibility to care for the animals in our care and to provide them with the conditions necessary for their welfare. Animal welfare is also important for agricultural productivity, as higher-welfare conditions typically means mortality is lower. This can help alleviate food scarcity. Human and environmental health can also benefit from higher animal welfare.

In this report, we focus on animal welfare in Zimbabwe. We have identified four high-priority opportunities for improving animal welfare:

  1. Including fish welfare in the aquaculture law

  2. Preventing industrialised animal farming

  3. Umbrella animal welfare legislation

  4. Expanding plant-based outreach

All of these priorities appear to be very strong - even in the face of uncertainty, we would expect each of these priorities to be capable of improving the lives of millions of farmed animals. These priorities can be selected and adapted based on on-the-ground conditions, which could include existing welfare conditions, the policy landscape, and stakeholder views. We have illustrated how an ask could be chosen based on the policy landscape and stakeholder views - see the below flowchart.

We have also identified a number of smaller opportunities: improving chicken welfare; reducing tick-borne diseases in cattle; and improving pig welfare.

Table of contents

Executive summary

Table of contents

Top opportunities for improving animal welfare in Zimbabwe

Opportunity 1: Include fish welfare in the aquaculture law

Opportunity 3: Umbrella animal welfare legislation

Opportunity 2: Preventing industrial animal farming

Opportunity 4: Expanding plant-based outreach

Lower priority 1: Chicken welfare

Lower priority 2: Reducing tick-borne diseases in cattle

Lower priority 3: Pig welfare

Farmed animals in Zimbabwe: Which species to target?

Animal welfare legislation in Zimbabwe

Appendix: Animal welfare and One Health

Appendix: Funding opportunities


Top opportunities for improving animal welfare in Zimbabwe

Priority 1: Include fish welfare in the aquaculture law

Fish farming in Zimbabwe

Fish welfare is the highest priority intervention we identified in Zimbabwe. Firstly, there is currently a debate on the fish farming regulation bill, which is a great opportunity to improve welfare conditions in the fish farming industry.

Secondly, an immense number of fish are farmed in Zimbabwe. There are already somewhere between 20 and 35 million farmed Nile tilapia alive at any one time in Zimbabwe, much higher than any other farmed vertebrate in the country (10). Further, this number is projected to roughly double by 2032 (10). Zimbabwe has been described as having unrealized aquaculture potential as well as lower-than-expected rates of fish consumption, which is thought to make such an increase possible (10). Since Nile tilapia make up 99% of all farmed fish in Zimbabwe, this report will focus on tilapia (11).

A key stakeholder in the scaling-up of Zimbabwe’s tilapia production is the FAO and their FISH4ACP project. FISH4ACP and the Chinhoyi University of Technology conducted a study during 2021/22 about current challenges to the sector (12). This report found that cost of compliance with the current, non-centralized regulatory environment was one of the major bottlenecks in the current tilapia value chain. This report seems to be one of the major drivers behind the push to pass a new unified fisheries regulation bill by the end of 2023. The FAO is also one of the main authors of the proposed fisheries bill: “A team of legal experts from the legal division of the attorney general’s office and the FAO’s legal division will assist in collecting views and compiling the draft bill, prior to validation by the stakeholders” (12). Because the FAO has such a strong influence over the new fisheries bill, it is important that any asks are compatible with the goals of the FAO and the FISH4ACP program.

The main goals of the FISH4ACP program are as follows: “FISH4ACP’s priority areas include scaling-up production by improving access to quality inputs and technical know-how. Its overarching goal is to facilitate strong fish farming businesses in a conducive regulatory environment, linking smallholders to domestic and export markets as a means of reducing poverty. FISH4ACP also aims to increase employment and the contribution of aquaculture to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product by supporting an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable fish farming sector.” (13).

The Zimbabwe Fish Producers Association is also closely involved with the consultation around this bill. The association has been pushing for a similar streamlining of the regulatory environment in order to reduce the cost of compliance since their establishment in 2016.

Another key stakeholder is Lake Harvest Aquaculture, which is by far the largest producer of farmed Nile tilapia in Zimbabwe. LHA produces nearly 90% of Zimbabwe’s farmed Nile tilapia (13). LHA’s farm on Lake Kariba uses large offshore cages, with each cage containing 100 tonnes of fish at any one time (14). Even though the goals of the FAO are more focused on attaining economic benefits for smallholder producers, the content of the bill will be shaped by the economic interests of LHA. The bill's impact on LHAs production methods should be a primary consideration for animal advocates.

Note that LHA exports around 65% of its fish to neighbouring countries, primarily Zambia (15). This means that legislation affecting domestic production will be much more impactful than legislation affecting the sale of tilapia within Zimbabwe.

The welfare of farmed tilapia

The most comprehensive source on the welfare needs of the Nile tilapia are:

  • The paper by Pedrazzani et al, "Tilapia On-Farm Welfare Assessment Protocol for Semi-intensive Production Systems" (16). While useful, this paper does have a number of weaknesses: it is unclear what stocking densities are ideal for different production methods; it is unclear how well the protocol generalises to the production methods used in Zimbabwe; and the protocol is fairly insensitive to sub-clinical welfare issues, and so getting near-perfect scores is easier than it should be.

  • The Fair-Fish Database entry on Nile tilapia (link). This database entry has a list of recommendations for improving the welfare of Nile tilapia on farms.

Which fish welfare policies should be pursued?

Since the fisheries regulation bill will be passed in the next few months, influencing it is the most urgent priority around influencing fish farming in Zimbabwe. Since a law cannot include the same level of detail as future regulation might, these asks will be more general than the rest.

  1. The first ask is to advocate for the bill to include a clause like: ‘As future production systems intensify and increase in scale, animal welfare should remain a central priority of producers and regulators’. Though a clause like this would not in itself require anything concrete from producers, it can help to get animal welfare on the regulatory agenda and provide the basis for future welfare reforms.

  2. The second ask is to advocate for the bill to require fish welfare training. Specifically, it would be good for the bill to require people who handle and slaughter fish to undergo training in humane handling and fish welfare indicators. The training could involve consultation with aquaculture training institutes and educators, or online courses (e.g. the welfare indicator model here). In the interests of not imposing additional burdens on smallholder farmers, much of the welfare impact of this ask could be preserved by requiring training only for farms that produce more than a particular volume of fish. Even if training is only required for LHA staff, the ask would still retain much of its welfare impact. However, the impact of compliance based on training and the use of this app has yet to be established in this case, and there is certainly potential for compliance to be worse in practice than is expected.

Next, we consider asks that could apply to future codes of practice. These asks can be split into two categories: those that apply to both cage and pond production systems, and those which only apply to pond production systems. In both cases these asks are more detailed than those in the prior section. Since there are no current plans for industry regulation more detailed than the fisheries bill, these asks are less urgent.

  1. The first ask relevant to both cage and pond systems is a limit on stocking density. Due to the variety of welfare needs associated with tilapia at different life-stages and in different production systems, a single density requirement is not appropriate. The stocking density goals for pond and cage systems used by Pedrazzani et al (16) are a good starting point. However, before trying to introduce these as benchmarks for Zimbabwean producers, further consultation with experts in Zimbabwean production systems or tilapia welfare would be beneficial. Additionally, because of the centralization of the industry in cage systems with Lake Harvest and the difficulty of enforcing regulations on informal pond systems, starting with regulations on cage systems could be sensible.

  2. The second ask relevant to both cage and pond production systems would be limiting the amount of time fish can spend out of water before slaughter or stunning. The shorter this time, the better as fish are asphyxiating and otherwise greatly suffering while out of water. Moreover, it has not been established that putting fish on ice in these cases solves this problem, indeed it may make it worse (18). However, in the interests of feasibility, the specific time limits would have to be partly determined by how easy compliance would be for producers.

Finally, though it may be more promising to focus on cages, two asks which are primarily relevant for pond production systems are:

  1. Monitoring and controlling water quality. The model for water quality monitoring found in the Pedrazzani et al. paper (16), with its focus on dissolved oxygen levels, provides a good model for Zimbabwean regulation. Although we expect that lack of knowledge and control over water quality would make these difficult to enfoce as presented.

  2. Environmental enrichment in ponds. The most important aspect of environmental enrichment is the provision of substrate in artificial ponds. This is important because wild Nile tilapia use substrate to burrow and build nests. As such, including this substrate in pond systems might be a good intervention with significant welfare benefits.

One final point is not strictly relevant to the welfare of the fish themselves, but is still significant. The FAO FISH4ACP program is trialling the use of black soldier fly larvae as a feed for Nile tilapia in Zimbabwe. Though the practice seems to be found only in small trials so far, it may lead to insect suffering on an immense scale (19,20). We strongly recommend that all opportunities be taken to prevent the use of black soldier fly larvae in fish feed in Zimbabwe.

Another practice that has very significant welfare impacts is the use of humane slaughter methods or stunning. While regulation that required this would be very beneficial for fish welfare, the very high cost of compliance makes it unrealistic for a relatively low-value fish like tilapia, especially in the Zimbabwean context.

Having said this, the centralization of the industry in Zimbabwe could mean that working with Lake Harvest to get stunning adopted could be very impactful. This could possibly be done through having a single vessel with stunning capacity and this could be particularly cost-effective even if subsidies are required. This might be of particular interest to funders. We would be happy to provide more information on this.

Priority 2: Preventing industrial animal farming

Advocating against the growth of industrialised animal farming in Zimbabwe is an extremely high priority in Zimbabwe in principle. The only reason that this was not included as the top priority is that we suspect that this may be especially difficult to achieve in practice in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, we think that this is an extremely high-impact campaign in principle and we wanted to include it as a guiding ideal. This campaign would aim to stop or slow the growth of industrialised farming, and instead favour extensive or free-range farming.

By industrialised animal farming, we mean the system of commercial animal farming that involves large-scale, indoor facilities, where animals are 'confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions' (1). Industrialised animal farming uses intensive production methods like battery cages and gestation crates, and this system is generally designed to maximise profits and minimise costs (1). The specifics of the policy would determine which exact practices are banned or prevented. In contrast, extensive animal farming involves natural environments, where animals can express natural behaviours, such as exploration, grazing, and exercise (2). The pastoral and free-range systems that are used by small-scale households in Zimbabwe are examples of extensive production systems.

There are many ways to encourage the government to support extensive production rather than industrial/intensive production. This could help the government avoid the public health and environmental problems that have been caused by industrialised animal farming in developed countries (see Appendix 2: Animal Welfare and One Health). Specifically, supporting extensive and free-range production would enable agricultural income to be dispersed to many households, particularly those experiencing poverty, rather than to a handful of large, commercial companies. Likewise, this could enable the government to position themselves as a leader in sustainable agricultural policy on both the regional and global stage, especially considering the progress being made on animal welfare on the level of the African Union (3,4).

The benefits from preventing the growth of industrialised animal farming in Zimbabwe would fall into three categories.

  • Firstly, farmed animals would likely experience conditions that are better for their welfare. Intensive animal farming involves confining animals in large, densely populated buildings. This usually stops animals from experiencing freedoms and natural behaviours that are essential for their welfare, and there are many specific harms involved with industrial production systems (e.g. painful mutilations, health problems caused by using fast-growing breeds) (5,6). Indeed, the major animal welfare campaigns currently taking place in developed countries focus on phasing out the worst practices of industrialised farming, like keeping hens in cages (7). If Zimbabwe did not pursue intensive animal farming, and instead favoured extensive or free-range farming, then the conditions that cause immense suffering to animals would be averted.

  • Secondly, this campaign in Zimbabwe would be extremely valuable for animal advocates in other developing countries. If this campaign is successful in Zimbabwe, then it would be a watershed moment - the campaign could be replicated in other countries around the world, magnifying its impact substantially and improving the lives of hundreds of millions or even billions of animals worldwide.

  • Thirdly, there may be fewer animals farmed overall. Industrialised farming systems were developed to farm a very large number of animals very cheaply. Extensive or free-range farming would produce a smaller number of animals, which could mean that fewer animals are born into lives of suffering. This would depend on whether Zimbabweans' demand for meat remains relatively low, or whether the demand increases but is met by free-range production or even imports from other countries.

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s constitution states that people have a right to:

“(a) To an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being

(b) To have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that –

(I) prevent pollution and ecological degradation

(ii) Promote conservation and

(iii) Secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting economic and social development”

A strong case can be made that industrialised animal agriculture is incompatible with these constitutional rights.

The key question is whether it is possible to prevent the growth of industrialised animal farming in Zimbabwe - or, indeed, in any country. Our recent research suggests preventing or significantly slowing the development of industrial animal farming may be a feasible goal in some developing countries (research available here). The most critical uncertainty is whether a government would be willing to consider the possibility of stopping industrialised farming. We suspect this may not be true in the case of Zimbabwe, but if this is true we would consider this the strongest ask in the country.

The most general barrier to achieving this goal is the perceived conflict between animal welfare and various humanitarian and economic pressures. Framing this policy in terms of win-wins will be critical to attracting the support of government and other stakeholders. These win-win options include overlaps between animal welfare objectives and objectives around environmental concerns, human health, economic profitability, food security, and employment. The One Health concept captures some of these overlaps, and Zimbabwean stakeholder’s familiarity with the concept makes it an excellent frame for promoting these win-win options in conversation with policymakers. The following paragraphs will identify a number of these overlaps.

  • At the national level, animal welfare interests can sometimes overlap with the economic interests associated with export-oriented animal agriculture. If Zimbabwe wants to target export markets that have stricter regulations on animal product imports, then domestic producers have an incentive to meet these regulations. These regulations can either directly require certain standards of animal welfare from producers, or indirectly benefit animals by requiring the products to be disease-free. While regional African export markets may have less strict regulations, if stakeholders eventually want to target wealthier export markets they have an incentive to eventually bring their production standards in line with these more demanding import regulations.

  • A good example of these economic incentives leading to improved animal welfare outcomes is the Farm Assured Namibian Meat scheme. If stakeholders within a particular industry have exports to stricter markets as a medium or long-term goal, they may be receptive to piloting higher welfare production methods as early trials, or simply requiring higher-welfare production methods from the beginning.

  • At smaller scales, it seems plausible that many of the gains in productivity associated with larger-scale, more intensive production may actually be a result of the improved market access available to larger firms. This suggests that many of the economic goals that push producers to larger-scale, more intensive production can actually be met by programs that improve the market access of small-scale producers. Since smaller producers are also often better from an environmental and public health perspective, improving the market access of small producers can satisfy a number of overlapping goals. Snyder et al. (2020) (8) and a report by UNIDO analysing Tanzania red meat value chain (9) make a convincing case that this model is true in Tanzania:

  • Other overlaps between animal welfare and other goals are often more specific to particular contexts and particular stakeholders. These can include a focus on the negative environmental or land-use effects of intensive animal agriculture, the increased risks of zoonotic diseases, or the improvements in food security smallholder farming with indigenous breeds can often provide. If there are stakeholders such as NGOs whose goals align with these, collaborating with these organisations can be a win-win option for both animal welfare and other goals.

Priority 3: Umbrella animal welfare legislation

There are significant gaps in Zimbabwe's animal welfare legislation (see discussion on legislation below). The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is brief and cannot be expected to effectively govern animal welfare in Zimbabwe. What is needed is more competitive legislation to govern the treatment of all major groups of animals in Zimbabwe.

Ideally, new animal welfare legislation would:

  • Focus on intensive and semi-intensive systems. Intensification poses much greater risks to animal welfare than extensive farming, and Zimbabwe is experiencing intensification of agriculture.

  • Be legally binding.

  • Cover the major groups of farmed animals, including fish and chickens

  • Establish regular reviews, which would set up an institutional framework through which animal welfare standards in Zimbabwe can be improved over time.

  • Create a new animal welfare team, under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

  • Cover the major welfare problems experienced by farmed animals. Studying the major welfare problems would require the knowledge of local experts and other stakeholders, as well as on-the-ground farm visits and species-specific considerations. However, generally speaking, chickens are likely to experience welfare problems in: breed, stocking density, litter and air quality, temperature, light and other equipment, nutrition, handling, transport, and stunning and slaughter (28). For fish, the major welfare problems generally include: water quality, space requirements and stocking density, feed composition, stunning and slaughter, and environmental enrichment (29). Similar lists can be produced for goats, cows, sheep, and pigs. A comprehensive welfare standard would cover all of these areas. For more information about what these welfare standards could contain, see the sections in this report on tilapia, chickens, pigs, and tick-borne diseases.

Priority 4: Expanding plant-based outreach

Our fourth priority is expanding plant-based diet outreach campaigns. This campaign is lower-impact but requires less involvement with the government, making it a suitable back-up option if the other insutitonal campaigns do not appear possible.

The animal advocacy movement regularly invests resources into campaigns that aim to reduce people's consumption of meat and/or animal products. Many of these campaigns are conducted using digital media (e.g. social media ads) and/or mass media (e.g. radio, TV, newspapers).

There is some evidence supporting these campaigns (21–23) and given the evidence we have available, our conservative estimate is that these campaigns spare 0.5 animals per dollar in some contexts.

One way to deliver meat-reduction outreach campaigns that may be particularly suitable for Zimbabwe is to use mass media (including radio, TV, newspapers, and the internet). Mass media campaigns have been in a variety of contexts to achieve human behavioural change (24–31). These contexts include campaigns to prevent smoking, to encourage contraceptive use, to encourage healthier eating, among other uses. Such campaigns are particularly promising in developing countries, where radio appears to be very cost-effective (30).

There is little evidence concerning the effectiveness of using radio and other forms of mass media for the specific task of reducing meat and animal production consumption in developing countries like Zimbabwe. However, there is evidence on two closely related questions.

  • Mass media campaigns can increase people's consumption of healthy food (24,25), including in developing countries (26). Numerous review studies have also concluded that mass media seems generally effective in changing people's health-related behaviours (24–31). This effect holds across a variety of contexts, including in numerous developing countries (29). Some studies have also found that this effect holds for mass media campaigns that seek to increase people's intake of fruits and vegetables (24–26).

  • Campaigns in general can reduce people's consumption of animal products, including in developing countries. The meta-analysis by Mathur et al (23) included a handful of studies from developing countries (specifically China, Ecuador, and India). These studies mostly had positive effect sizes of a comparable magnitude to the other studies included in the meta-analysis. These studies used a few different interventions, which were pretty close in form and content to short ads shown on the internet or TV (e.g. images or short videos).

Given this evidence, expanding plant-based diet outreach appears to be a reliable back-up option in Zimbabwe. Also, expanding this programme in Zimbabwe could provide further evidence supporting the use of this campaign in similar contexts (e.g. other African countries), further magnifying its impact.

Lower priority 1: Chicken welfare

We estimate that Zimbabwe has a population of around 10.5 million chickens in commercial systems, 70% of which are raised in relatively extensive systems. Most of these (90%) are farmed for meat, and some (10%) are farmed for eggs. In addition, more than 90% of households keep chickens (32) with the total population of these “village” or “backyard” chickens possibly reaching 30 million (33). There appears to be an increase in intensification of chicken farming. As in other African countries, intensification has been driven by the import of cheap battery cages from other countries.

The general issue of chicken welfare is very important in Zimbabwe because of the large numbers of chickens and of the extensive welfare issues we see coming from intensification, especially the use of battery cages. Having said this, Sibanye Trust has encountered significant obstacles in their cage free work.

Sibanye Trust started their cage free campaign in 2018 as part of the Open Wing Alliance (34). They faced a number of challenges including:

  • Lack of supportive structures, economic incentives, and lack of consumer demand for cage free eggs

  • Difficulty in aligning incentives in order to collaborate with farmers and policymakers of

  • Lack of money for capital investments in cage free systems, exacerbated by unfavourable foreign exchange rates

  • Farmer seeking a return on investment on their newly bought cages

  • Knowledge gaps in conducting this distinct type of campaign

It might help to consult with other organisations that have run successful cage-free campaigns in similar contexts. Nevertheless, there may remain substantive issues in the Zimbabwean context which continue to impede progress.

Lower priority 2: Reducing tick-borne diseases in cattle

This year marks the start of a large government campaign to combat tick-borne diseases in Zimbabwe. This campaign has involved: systematic livestock dipping; the provision of 1 kg of tick grease to 1 million farmers, as a supplement to dipping; and making failure to dip cows an arrestable offence (35). Additionally, 200,000 BOLVAC vaccine doses against ticks have now been produced (36). There are further plans to produce vaccine doses for other tick-borne diseases. The government's campaign has shown enormous success so far, with cattle mortality this year down by 47% compared to the previous year (37).

We applaud efforts by the government and farmers to make progress on this issue. We recommend that the government and animal advocacy organisations continue this work. This work is particularly valuable because of 1) the extremely high mortality rate caused by tick-borne diseases, 2) the high population of cows in Zimbabwe, and 3) economic benefits from this intervention (lower cattle mortality). Having said this, we did not include this among our top priorities because decisive action is already being taken to combat the diseases.

Tick-borne disease is a leading cause for farmed animal mortality in Zimbabwe, amounting to 55% of all cow deaths (11). The main such diseases are Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Heartwater, and Theileriosis (also known as January disease).

Regularly dipping cows in an insecticide treatment according to a specific schedule has been the most common method of managing the disease. However, cattle mortality is still higher than would be ideal, despite the use of cattle dipping. This may be due to errors with implementation (38). If some dips are missed or the dips are otherwise not conducted properly, the ticks can survive to reproduce and evolve to become more resistant to the insecticide.

Because of the difficulty at expense of these methods, the possibility of vaccinating cattle against ticks has long been considered. Zimbabwe has developed a version of this vaccine, the BOLVAC vaccine. This vaccine has been found to be safe and efficacious (39). Despite the early development, it was discontinued in the 1990s because of inadequate financing and technical staff turnover (38). However, this has recently changed.

Lower priority 3: Pig welfare

Pigs make up only a small part of Zimbabwe's farmed animals (~300,000 alive at any one time). However, pigs in Zimbabwe experience significant welfare challenges. While this is a lower priority, it would still be good to work towards improving pig welfare.

The main challenges facing pig welfare are:

  • A lack of regulations on slaughter methods, meaning pigs may be slaughtered inhumanely,

  • Acceptance of sow stalls, meaning pigs are often confined,

  • A lack of funding for farmers and other stakeholders to improve animal welfare,

  • Low management skills,

  • The electricity shortage, as most piglet deaths are caused by cold or by being crushed by sow as they the piglets try to seek warmth,

Some pigs are part of the Zimbabwe Quality Assured Pork (ZQAP) certification scheme. One expert we spoke to estimated that fewer than 20% of Zimbabwe's pigs are part of this scheme. This certification carries important pig welfare legislation, but it only applies to a small proportion of the country's pig production. In the slaughter section of the ZQAP scheme, no specific methods of slaughter or conditions to be fulfilled are specified. Stress caused to pigs is only evoked in the specific consequence for the quality of the meat. Also, the text needs to be more specific in order to ensure better welfare at all stages of pig farming and handling. It would be beneficial to expand the scheme to cover more of the country's pigs, to refine the text of the certification scheme to make it more specific, and advocate to include the provisions of the certification scheme in the Animal Health Act.

Cruelty toward pigs is also addressed in the ZQAP by banning using electric rods: “Abusive, physically aggressive behavior is forbidden” (40). Similarly, “Kicking, the use of electric prodders, whips, metal rods, heavy sticks or other objects liable to injure or terrify pigs are all forbidden”(40). However, the use of anaesthetics is not mentioned during routine procedures such as Tail docking, clipping, ear notching and tattooing of piglets up to 7 days of age. These procedures are considered to be very painful for pigs [reference] and should be rendered pain free by implementing routine analgesics administered by trained staff.

Farmed animals in Zimbabwe: Which species to target?

Here, we list the number of farmed animals alive at any one time in Zimbabwe. These numbers are based primarily on data from the 2022 Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report (11). This data should be taken as an approximation (41).

  • 20 - 34 million tilapia raised in aquaculture. In addition there are much smaller numbers of kapenta, catfish and trout together forming less than 1% of total aquaculture production. This excludes wild-caught fish.

  • 10.5 million chickens under commercial conditions. About 90% of these are farmed for meat, and about 10% for eggs. 75% are raised by small-scale producers.

  • 4 million goats. Approximately 14% are raised in intensive conditions.

  • 5.5 million cows. Approximately 10% are raised in intensive conditions.

  • 700,000 sheep. These are almost entirely raised in extensive conditions.

  • 300,000 pigs. We have been told that these are mostly raised in intensive conditions.

There are also smaller numbers of other farmed animals, including notably:

  • Around 100,000 crocodiles are farmed and killed per year. The crocodile industry in Zimbabwe is highly concentrated at the Padenga Crocodile Farm, which uses intensive farming methods. Crocodiles are crowded into concrete enclosures without environmental enrichment other than a small pond. These crocodiles are farmed in order to export their skins and their meat. Surprisingly, these crocodiles seem to be fed on a largely vegan diet (42).

  • Large numbers of bees are raised for honey. Most beekeeping in Zimbabwe is done by smallholders (43).

These numbers suggest initial welfare priorities of fish and chickens, though the final welfare priorities will ultimately depend on the strength of the available opportunities for improving welfare in each respective species.

Note: there may be inaccuracies in these sources from which this data was obtained.

Animal welfare legislation in Zimbabwe

The primary piece of animal welfare legislation in Zimbabwe is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (44).

  • This Act does not explicitly mention the sentience of animals or their intrinsic moral worth. This reflects a failure to respond to scientific information about the sentience of animals and increased moral awareness of their welfare, since the writing of this Act over 60 years ago and its last update 20 years ago.

  • Invertebrates are also excluded from the Act, meaning that the farmed bee population in Zimbabwe has no protection. This is despite many recent studies strongly suggesting that bees can feel pain, meaning that we are responsible for the welfare of bees under our care (45).

  • The Act lacks specificity. For example, the Act establishes that an offence occurs when somebody “cruelly or unnecessarily ties up or confines any animal or causes or permits any animal to be tied up or confined”. While this seems reasonable on the face of it, “cruelty” is not defined. Anyone wishing to excuse their own behaviour or the behaviour of others could interpret the term in a narrow light. Adding more specificity makes it harder for people to rationalise bad behaviour as meeting the standard set in the Act.

  • Further, “confined” is not defined or elaborated on in the act. A reasonable interpretation of this might prohibit some specific practices, including perhaps the use of cages for egg-laying hens, but there is no further elaboration in the Act. Greater specificity could resolve these ambiguities and lead to higher welfare on farms.

  • Greater specificity is often achieved through the writing of codes of practices for the major groups of animals used in a particular country. Zimbabwe does not have any codes of regular codes of practice for animals, and the development of these codes should be a legislative aspiration for the country. We see this as the most important legislative goal for animal welfare in Zimbabwe.

Other legislation exists that might touch on animal welfare is the Animal Health Act (2001) (47).

  • This Act does not explicitly mention animals’ wellbeing, specific states of health, or the alleviation of suffering during painful procedures (e.g. tail docking).

  • This Act empowers a Minister to “order destruction of wild animals.” This cause has no details about how this “destruction” has to be carried out. Destruction of wild animals can imply the destruction not only of their lives by killing them, but also target their habitat which could also be detrimental to human health. More detailed information is therefore needed to define in what cases wild animals are concerned and how this decision affects animals wellbeing, the environment, and human health. This should specify that humane methods be used, as well as considering other options first (e.g. neutering animals).

Finally, the deficiencies in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are compounded by ineffectual fines. The fine is currently ZWL $200 for an initial infraction, which is extremely cheap for a criminal offence (48). Where fines are too small, fines can be seen as simply the cost of doing business for farms, potentially leading to widespread violations of animal welfare.

More specific animal welfare language is found in the Zimbabwe Quality Assured Pork Scheme (ZQAP) (40). The ZQAP only applies to pigs, and only a small proportion of the country's pigs (below 20%). In this code, animal welfare is explicitly addressed by including the five freedoms (freedom from malnutrition, thermal physical discomfort, injury, normal behaviour, and fear and stress). However, this is a voluntary code rather than being legally required by all pig farmers in Zimbabwe. Though it still has some significant deficiencies, the code is an improvement on standard animal welfare requirements in Zimbabwe, and represents a source of potential inspiration for future welfare reforms. It is clear that these standards work for a significant proportion of pig farmers in Zimbabwe, and so the concept has been proved in this natural trial. The certification scheme is discussed in further detail in the below section on pig welfare.

Appendix: Animal welfare and One Health

Highlighting the ways in which animal welfare can contribute to Zimbabwe's goals in economic development and public health is a powerful way to provide justification and gain support for animal welfare campaigns. The links between animal welfare, economic development, and public health can be communicated using the One Health framework. Explaining these links during campaigns can help motivate the government and other stakeholders to support animal welfare.

The One Health framework recognises the links between animal health and welfare, human health, and environmental health (49). Recognising how animal welfare can contribute to economic and community development allows governments and organisations to make smarter investments. According to the International Livestock Research Institute (50): "One dollar invested in One Health approaches can generate five dollars’ worth of benefits at the country level through increased GDP and the individual level." Animal welfare is not a luxury, but an essential component of public health and economic development (51).

Zimbabwe supports the use of the One Health concept, as demonstrated by the variety of One Health programmes and initiatives that already exist in Zimbabwe (52,53):

  • The Government of Zimbabwe has a National Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance, which is based on the One Health concept. The first Plan was established for 2017 - 2021, and a new plan is being released for 2023 - 2027.

  • The SAFE (Transforming Zimbabwe’s Animal Health and Food Safety Systems) initiative aims at "controlling animal disease, sanitary and phytosanitary, and promoting food safety".

  • The PACMAN (Diagnostic Platform for the Control of Animal Diseases) project is specifically aimed at animal health, and focuses on Zimbabwe's capacity for "early detection, monitoring, as well as mitigation of animal and zoonotic diseases".

  • The Zoonotic Committees platform aims to bring together ministries to coordinate response to zoonotic diseases.

  • Zimbabwe also participates in international One Health programmes.

For public health, the One Health framework shows that animal welfare can contribute to healthy, safe communities in a number of ways:

  • Reducing zoonotic diseases.

  • Reducing antimicrobial resistance.

  • Increasing food safety. When animals harbour harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter, people who eat the animals' meat can become sick. Healthier, less stressed animals are less likely to harbour these bacteria. This improves food safety and people's health (49,51,54).

  • Reducing environmental problems. Better husbandry systems are more productive. This means that fewer resources like feed and water are wasted and that fewer environmental pollutants are released into the atmosphere and the water. This reduces environmental problems (51).

For economic development, animal welfare can also contribute to increasing farmer and community wealth and building the private sector. Animal welfare can contribute to this goal:

  • More efficient food production. Animals with higher welfare are healthier and less stressed, and therefore experience lower mortality and higher yields (49). This makes agricultural production more efficient, helping both households and businesses to produce more.

  • Supporting private sector economic development. Businesses that can produce food more efficiently will be in a strong economic position to develop, such as through capital investments. This can support Zimbabwe's commitment to private sector development (55).

  • Improving food security. Helping households to produce food more efficiently can improve household food security (51), and preventing the emergence of zoonotic diseases can improve food security country-wide (54).

  • Increasing income. More productive, efficient production of food means that both households and commercial farmers can receive more money (51).

Appendix: Funding opportunities

Animal Advocacy Africa maintains a list of funding opportunities available here. We have taken the most relevant funding opportunities from that list and summarised them in the table below. These are the funding opportunities that are most likely to be helpful for organisations in Zimbabwe advocating for animal welfare (and particularly for the campaigns we recommend in this report).

Many countries have rules and regulations around receiving foreign funding. This may increase the risk of depending on a few foreign donors, so it is important to make sure you understand these rules when seeking funding.


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