One Health. Animal, human, planetary health and welfare. What can we do?


The hard lessons of Covid-19 should compel every WHO(World Health Organization) member state to effectively adopt the One Health paradigm. That is, a systems approach to the analysis of public health risks in their correlation with animal health and welfare, on the one hand, and that of the environment, on the other.

A recent editorial by ANSES-the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Safety (1)-offers some food for thought also in view of our daily consumption choices and adherence to the European Citizens’ Initiative #SaveTheBees.

One Health, Ecohealth, One Wealth

The three coronavirus outbreaks in two decades (Sars, Mers and Sars-CoV2, of the many variants recorded)-besides being entirely predictable, as noted above-are traced back to human-animal interactions. (2) In more general terms, 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are of animal origin, three to five each year, and 60 percent of the total infectious diseases are common to the two species. (3) And pathogens contributed by wild animals, especially in intertropical areas where biodiversity loss is greatest, bring attention back to the environment. (4)

One Health
expresses a holistic approach toward human health, animal health and ecosystem health. In practice, this involves the exchange of knowledge and interaction between human and veterinary medicine, biology, and environmental science (and related disciplines). (5) It also refers to
(o Health Ecology) – for correlations between changes (in biological, physical, social, and economic environments) and human health, and to One Wealth to add the well-being and economic sustainability to the dimension of health, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (#SDG3, to Ensure People’s Health and Well-being for All).


Zoonoses are all situations in which a pathogen (bacterium, virus) or parasite can be transmitted from animals to humans and/or vice versa. Zoonoses do not always cause disease, as some animals are healthy carriers of pathogens instead responsible for disease in humans and vice versa. And it is the mutation-more frequent in viruses (e.g., avian flu, Ebola, Covid-19, all RNA viruses) than in bacteria and parasites-that allows the pathogen to adapt to a new species.

Transmission of zoonoses can occur through direct contact, facilitated by promiscuity between humans and animals in rarefied ecosystems and poor hygienic conditions, but not only that. (6) Some pathogens are transmitted through the environment – through water (enteric bacteria and viruses), soil (e.g., through the tetanus, anthrax, etc.), others through contaminated food (e.g. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Anisakis, etc.), others through other vectors such as insects or arachnids. (7)

Animal Welfare

Sources of stress and poor welfare conditions can expose farm animals to communicable diseases that pose public health risks, as well as livelihood losses and problems for farmers. The rights of animals as sentient beings are ideally recognized in the European Treaty of Lisbon (2007) in Article 2.2.1. EFSA(European Food Safety Authority) was therefore tasked to monitor critical factors and identify best practices to reduce pain, discomfort and other forms of suffering, as well as improve animal welfare. (8)

Although the European Commission has coordinated a comprehensive reform of animal health rules, it nevertheless persists in postponing the adoption of a comprehensive strategy on animal welfare that is both its corollary and premise. With the further paradox of devoting priority to ‘animal welfare‘ labeling over basic requirements.

Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics, active substances used to fight infection-causing bacteria, have represented a major breakthrough in the history of medicine. Overall, it is estimated that ‘their use has led to an increase in life expectancy of at least ten years, making it possible to successfully treat a number of previously fatal diseases.’ (9) However, their reckless use, in both human and veterinary medicine, has resulted in the emergence of bacterial strains capable of resisting these treatments. To the point that many bacteria are now resistant to several antibiotics (multi-resistance), therefore ineffective. The WHO and WTO therefore consider antibiotic resistance to be the most serious public health threat at the planetary level.

The Italian Ministry of Health had defined a National Plan for Countering Antimicrobial Resistance, for the period 2017-2020. (10) With goals of surveillance, prevention, and infection control, including through the proper use of antibiotics. By means of training, communication and information, research and innovation activities. The One Health perspective is also dedicated to the CRAB – National Reference Center for Antibiotic Resistance, with regard also to the collection of data coming from the monitoring of antibiotic resistance in the veterinary sector (11,12).

Deforestation, agrotoxics

Massive deforestation of tropical areas has been considered one of the critical factors for species hopping of some coronaviruses. (13) Resolution 22.10.20 of the European Parliament indicated to the European Commission the strategy to be followed to drastically mitigate this phenomenon, which among other things is associated with crimes against humanity(land grabbing) and climate emergency, as also highlighted by IPCC(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2019).

Agrotoxics in turn have contaminated 64 percent of farmland planetwide. About 24.5 million km2 of soils are polluted by more than one active substance on the list of poisons, and half of them-31 percent of the total-are at high risk. The University of Sidney study recently published in Nature, in reporting these data, underscores serious concerns about the fate of 5 huge river basins-in South Africa, China, India, Australia and Argentina-where the pollution hazard is associated with high biodiversity and water scarcity. (14)

One Health, what to do?

We citizens and consumers need to become aware of the power of our daily choices in curbing phenomena that are themselves struggling to improve, as we have seen. It is worth dwelling today on some actions that are in our full disposal:

▶️ #SaveTheBeesandFarmers is the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) through which we demand concrete commitments from the European Commission to ban killer pesticides that threaten the survival of pollinating insects and persist in soils to the point of contaminating surface and groundwater(ISPRA 2020). 600,000 out of 1 million signatures have been collected to date. It is therefore crucial to join ICE today and have our contacts subscribe to it, propagandize it in turn, at

▶️ buying organic food is not chic, it is only logical. To rid our bodies of residues of glyphosate (or glyphosate) and other substances indicted for various health woes. And instead strengthen the immune system, the best ally of health at this time in history. But also to ensure animal welfare with the only standard now defined in an EU regulation, subject to additional controls, among other things. Always favoring local supply chains, small farmers, even at the cost of ‘little (in variety) but good’,

▶️ ‘antibiotic-free’. Antibiotic-free animal supply chains were developed right here in Italy, thanks to Algatan and Coop Italia. Eggs, aquaculture fish, poultry, pork and beef are sources of exposure to antibiotics that we can do very well without. Strict selection of only ‘antibiotic-free’ products will force all large-scale retail (mass distribution) and livestock farmers to comply, without, among other things, incurring more expenses as Algatan has already demonstrated.

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Dario Dongo


(1) ANSES. Hommes et animaux: une seule santé. 28.4.21, %C3%

(2) The coronavirus family is numerous. They mainly affect the respiratory and digestive systems. As well as the circulatory one, as found in the most recent scientific studies. V.

(3) ANSES. Les interactions entre la santé animale et la santé humaine en 10 points clés. 21.4.21.

(4) ANSES. La faune sauvage, réservoir de pathogènes. 7.4.21, %C3%

(5) ISS (Istituto Superiore di Sanità). Global health and health inequalities. One Health.

(6) %E2%

(7) Mosquitoes can cause serious public health problems in areas plagued by viral infections( As in the case of malaria, which is still widespread and variously dangerous in various areas of the planet. The tiger mosquito has been found to be an effective biological vector of very aggressive pathogens such as dengue virus (DENV), chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and yellow fever virus (YFV).

Ticks in turn can transmit certain pathogens-protozoa, bacteria, and viruses-responsible for diseases in humans that are more or less epidemiologically relevant( Most of these infections can be diagnosed clinically only, but only rarely (up to 5% of cases) can the resulting diseases be life-threatening (see nt/tout-comprendre-sur-les-vecteurs-et-les-enjeux-de-lutte)

(8) EFSA(European Food Safety Authority). Animal Welfare.

(9) ANSES. La résistance aux antibiotiques. 7.4.21,ésistance-aux-antibiotiques

(10) Ministry of Health (2017). National Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance (PNCAR) 2017-2020. https://www.

(11) CRAB (National Reference Center for Antibiotic Resistance) unfortunately does not have a website to date. Information on its activities is collected on the website of the IZS (Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale) of Latium and Tuscany. V.

(12) Ministry of Health. Harmonized monitoring plan on antimicrobial resistance of zoonotic and commensal bacteria 2021. Cattle and pigs.

(13) For further study see theebook ‘Covid-19, the ABCs. Volume III, Planet’ (Égalité, Rome, 2020), at

(14) Tang, F.H.M., Lenzen, M., McBratney, A. et al. Risk of pesticide pollution at the global scale. Nat. Geosci. 14, 206-210 (2021).

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.