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The Office International des Épizooties (OIE) is a Paris-based, inter-governmental organisation with 164 member countries. Since its establishment in 1924, the OIE has made a major indirect contribution to animal welfare, at a global level, via the organisation's role in epizootic
disease control. The OIE animal health code includes a chapter on minimum animal welfare standards for trade and a standard-setting role has also been played in respect of animal transportation. In 1994, the publication Animal Welfare and Veterinary Services was included in the OIE
Scientific and Technical Review Series, and provides a valuable State Veterinary Service perspective on animal welfare capability and specific animal welfare issues. In drawing up its strategic plan for the period 2001 to 2005, animal welfare and food safety were identified as two areas for
future OIE involvement and these were formally accepted as strategic initiatives at the 2001 OIE General Assembly meeting. An international expert group was established to provide specific recommendations on the nature and scope of the OIE's animal welfare role. The expert group's recommendations
were reviewed and adopted, as Resolution XIV, at the May 2002 OIE General Assembly meeting. A permanent international working group was established and met for the first time in October 2002. This paper provides a background to animal welfare as an international trade policy issue and provides
an update on progress to date in developing an OIE animal welfare mission statement, supporting guiding principles and policies, and an agreed modus operandi. Priority areas for OIE involvement are identified, and emphasis is placed on the importance of making use of all available expertise
and resources, including those from academia, the research community, industry, animal welfare organisations and other relevant stakeholders.