ACTA VET BRNO, 2005, 74: 161-163


                                                              Book  Review


Terrestrial Animal Health Code 2004. Thirteenth Edition, Office International of Epizootics, Paris, 2004, 554 pages. ISBN 92-9044-606-4


The publication is divided in  four parts. The first “General provisions” has following sections: definitions and disease notification; obligations and ethics;  import risk analysis, evaluation of veterinary services, zoning, surveillance of animal health and equivalence  of sanitary measures; procedures from the departure to the arrival, border posts and quarantine stations. The second part “Recommendations applicable to specific diseases” contains sections of multiple species diseases, bovine diseases, sheep and goats diseases, equine diseases, swine diseases, avian diseases, lagomorph diseases, bee diseases and other diseases. The third part “Appendices” includes sections of diagnostic tests for international trade, collection and processing of semen and embryos/ova, health control and hygiene in establishments, quarantine,  animal welfare and surveillance systems. The fourth part includes models of international certificates.


Initial Code editions’ aim was to assure sanitary safety of international trade in animals and their products. Following WTO “Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures” (SPS), prepared  in 1994 thanks to pressure of major exporting countries, exaggerated initiative of the OIE and consequences concealment, the useful OIE Code of recommendations for minimal protection of importing country health were converted into maximal limits. The only purpose was to facilitate trade at the expense of animal and human health in importing countries. The “new” policy was expressed  in  the Code published after WTO/SPS: ”Import risk analysis is preferable to a zero risk approach”; this principle unknown in international trade history is unimaginable in any other commodity.


The concept of  the Code is contrary to all normal fair trade principles applied in all other commodities:  it is based on minimizing protection of importing country against introduction of disease to maximize profit through minimizing disease control, eradication and investigations in exporting countries being unable to guarantee healthy animals and animal products; it supports export of non-pathogen-free animals and their products; it discriminates importing countries (majority represented by developing ones) imposing on them the duty to accept these commodities and to pay for them as for full sanitary quality products. According to the Code the importing countries cannot  refuse non-pathogen-free animals or products or require better protection of animal and humans health than the OIE limits;  in these cases they must present convincing risk assessments to exporting countries !? The Code doesn’t know neither quality guarantee documents nor guarantee periods currently expressing the responsibility of the exporters and giving the possibility to reclaim disease introduction; it requires only non-binding information document. Accredited veterinarian, without any guarantee of his full independence on the exporters, is asked to “certify” only what he knows (no investigation = no knowledge on disease = health) and not sanitary quality, i.e. alibi without any responsibility for eventual disease export.


The Code doesn’t apply the simplest principle used in all other commodities, i.e. to require first the export of full quality goods. The Code doesn’t know at all the terms such as “healthy animals”, “pathogen-free animal products”, etc.. According to the Code the importing country cannot demand animals and their products to be free of communicable diseases’ pathogens ! The Code is even declaring these normal requirements as “unjustified sanitary barrier”, “inadmissible health protection measures” and “irresponsible behaviour of importing countries”. This is perverted logic because sanitary barriers create exporting country diseases. Among many formulations supporting export of almost all known diseases belongs following text: “The international veterinary certificate should not include requirements for the exclusion of pathogens or animal diseases which are present within the territory of the importing country and are not subject to any official control programme. It would be irresponsible and contrary to the principles of encouraging international trade..”.


The Code, not knowing at all trade in healthy animals and pathogen-free animal products, is seeking any form, open or hidden, how to facilitate the export of unhealthy animals and non innocuous products. The Code, instead of giving importing country freedom to decide on exporting country selection and on bilateral import condition agreement without any outside dictate as it was before, has imposed forcible  regulations conducing  to pathogens’ export  “liberalization”. The Code is supporting export of difficult-to-solve sanitary problems into importing country which must pay for them plus expenses of imported disease control and eradication; duties of disease exporting countries are always omitted.


Some chapters such as extremely wordy Certification procedures, Evaluation of veterinary services, Risk assessment, Guidelines for reaching judgement of equivalence of sanitary measures (novelty), etc.  requiring exaggerated number of data (not available even in the most developed countries not knowing reportable diseases’ occurrence, animal populations’ size, etc.) represent a nonsense theoretical fantasy to divert importing countries from the main and only concern – to avoid  pathogens’ import.


The Code omits entirely  export conditions for  meat which represents about one half of the value of all exported animals and animal products in the world. Only in the model of international veterinary certificate for meat is included that “meat comes from animals or birds slaughtered in abattoirs” and “ is considered as fit for human consumption”, however without any definition (everybody can understand it differently) and any requirement to guarantee  pathogen-free status. No one word on investigations/control system and that the meat should come from healthy animals.


The Code doesn’t respect the following: needs of importing country health protection and negative impacts on animal and human  health (OIE hasn’t presented to member country governments any analysis of the Code catastrophic consequences); that every case is different; that every country has different epizootiological situation, different veterinary service organization and its ability to control sanitary situation and trade; features’ variability of  diseases and their etiological agents (e.g. new strains); false negative results of diagnostic tests; extremely complex influencing factors; transparency (e.g. extremely wordy text issued every year without marking the changes, incredible mess of BSE chapters); scientific logic (declaring a territory as disease free in spite of its occurrence); statistical principles (samplings unable to confirm disease free status,  admitting 5% of zoonotic salmonellosis, etc.);  taxonomy (e.g. for the Code the term Brucella melitensis is not existing); medical ethics (supporting disease spreading); editorial culture (e.g. confusing “WTO” by “WHO” ,“agreement” by “law” even in DG OIE Foreword), etc..


The Code as a “novelty”  abolished traditional logical disease classification according to their importance mixing killing diseases (previous List A) with diseases of  lower importance (previous List B). This change is favourable only to exporting countries unable to eradicate some List A diseases (e.g. ASF in Italy). Other “novelty” consists in elimination of paratuberculosis (chapter 2.2.6  =  empty page; it’s never happened) opening its export from countries unable to control it. This step was preceded by Ministry of Agriculture of New Zealand declaring  paratuberculosis as “non hazard” and by its officer S.C.MacDiarmid becoming Secretary General of OIE Code Commission. The change was not scientifically justified and without any  assessment of consequences in importing countries and even against the opinion of OIE Reference Center for paratuberculosis at Veterinary Research Institute, Brno. Cheating importing countries started by WTO/SPS  with  attractive preamble "Desiring to improve the human health, animal health .. in all Members;" while in this document as well as in the OIE Code is no one word about the improvement of the health; on the contrary both documents are dedicated only how to "facilitate trade" at the expense of importing country health! The OIE, after admitting reduction of public veterinary services, continued by deforming information system on disease occurrence (= significantly less information than before), abolishing collection of data on disease import, using texts masking support of disease export, fraudulently abusing risk assessment, avoiding Code impact analyses, concealing the truth on disastrous consequences from importing country governments and world public, etc.. The Code doesn’t respect at all the opinion  of importing country  farmers and consumers and decides irresponsibly about health, life and death of incalculable numbers of animals and humans  exposed to imported pathogens.


The OIE Code and WTO/SPS are obviously the work of the same exporting countries not having necessary knowledge on own sanitary situation, not being able to export healthy animals and pathogen-free animal products, having very weak government veterinary service unable to supervise effectively trade and private veterinarians issuing international certificates,  however having decisive  influence on  both organizations. The documents “approved” under the pressure or through the trickery cannot be valid.  Internationally binding rules, such as OIE Code, require clearance by the governments themselves and not by very problematic “consensus” of Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs). There is a tragedy of veterinary medicine when international organization founded and being paid to protect animal health in the world has published a “standard” supporting globalization of communicable diseases. It is unimaginable that all governments and CVOs of importing countries consciously and voluntarily would agree with disease import.




                                        Prof. MVDr Václav K o u b a, DrSc.


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