Trusted local vets are key to animal health and welfare in Wales, says BVA President

01 July 2014

The President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has highlighted the role of trusted local veterinary surgeons in delivering better animal health and welfare in Wales at the BVA's annual Welsh dinner in Cardiff.

Pointing to the delivery of the new Animal health and Welfare Framework, TB testing and Cymorth TB, veterinary surveillance, and Farming Connect, BVA President Robin Hargreaves underlined the importance of the relationship between farmers and their local vets.

In his keynote speech to Assembly Members and key stakeholders in the agri-food and animal welfare sectors, Mr Hargreaves also highlighted the BVA's UK-wide campaign to end non-stun slaughter, welcomed early plans for a veterinary hub of excellence in Aberystwyth and gave BVA's support for changes to dog breeding regulations.

Llyr Gruffydd AM, BVA Honorary Associate Member and Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food delivered a speech on behalf of the guests.

On bovine TB Mr Hargreaves reiterated BVA's position and warned against misinterpretation of TB statistics. He said:

“In Wales, news of significant reductions in new herd incidents and in the number of cattle slaughtered across the country is very welcome…It is essential that the latest figures are not hijacked by the political lobby that would claim the stats show that badger vaccination is a proven alternative to culling. There is as yet no evidence to suggest that the badger vaccination programme in the Intensive Action Area has had an additional benefit to that experienced across the whole of Wales, and it is still too early to draw any conclusions.”

On Cymorth TB Mr Hargreaves called for the initiative to be rolled out further:

“We are very encouraged to hear that the benefits of the scheme, which has now completed its pilot phase, have been recognised and we fully support its wider roll out.

“This success is in large part due to the strong relationship that exists between local veterinary surgeons and their clients. Farmer compliance in disease management and control is key and the farmer's local – trusted – vet is best placed to deliver additional services and provide a bridge between policymakers and livestock owners.”

On news that the University of Aberystwyth and Welsh Government are considering how to deliver a hub of veterinary excellence, he said:

“Just as it is true that prevention is better than cure, a robust veterinary surveillance system is a far better investment than the huge bill for a disease outbreak. We are grateful to Welsh Government and the University of Aberystwyth for thinking creatively about how Wales could respond to the loss of laboratory facilities in Aber.

“It is still fairly early days but things are moving quickly, and for the vision of a centre of veterinary excellence in Wales to become a reality we need politicians and stakeholders to get behind the concept now.”

Mr Hargreaves called on guests to support the BVA campaign to end non-stun slaughter. He said:

“At the end of April we launched our UK-wide epetition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter and we have been delighted to attract over 70,000 signatures in just two months.

“If you believe, like I do, that all animals deserve a humane death and you haven't already given your support to the campaign I urge you to do so now… We recognise that it is a sensitive issue but politicians cannot continue to ignore the public call for better information and clearer labelling. We shouldn't have to wait for European legislation to make a difference in the future. UK consumers want to have confidence in the food they buy today.

“Non-stun slaughter affects millions of animals each year. It's time to work together and take action.”

On new dog breeding regulations, recently laid in the Assembly, Mr Hargreaves said:

“BVA has been very supportive of moves in Wales to update dog breeding regulations and we recognise that bringing all of the stakeholders together has been a challenge. The new regulations aren't perfect but they are a significant step in the right direction. They will bring many more breeders under the scrutiny of local authorities, and provide for improved socialisation and enrichment…

“When the full regulations are reviewed we would like to see more emphasis on responsible breeding from a health point of view with reference to reducing the likelihood of hereditary disease, the provision of veterinary services, and the recording of veterinary medicines.

“The real measure of success of the new regulations will be for Wales to finally throw off its unenviable reputation for puppy farming.”

The full speech is attached and also covers: the Animal Health and Welfare Framework, tendering for Official Veterinarian services, Farming Connect, 24/7 emergency care, veterinary manpower in Wales, plans to open a new veterinary school at the University of Aberystwyth, antimicrobial resistance, fly-grazing and the Control of Horses (Wales) Act, responsible pet ownership, dog microchipping regulations, and exotic pets.

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