Outgoing BVA President emphasises strength of profession in changing times

22 September 2016

Sean Wensley reviewed a year of change, progress and success for BVA

The veterinary profession's combined focus on animal welfare and outward looking perspective is enabling successes far beyond the sum of its parts, outgoing BVA President Sean Wensley said in his final speech in Bristol today (22 September).

Speaking at BVA's annual Members' Day, Mr Wensley outlined the roles vets and vet nurses can and do play "in addressing some of society's most pressing challenges in the [human-animal age]" and the strategic and pragmatic actions BVA has taken this past year as "the world as moved on".

Throughout his speech Mr Wensley reviewed a year of change, progress and success for BVA. On BVA's landmark animal welfare strategy, which launched earlier this year, he said:
"There is an important truism: When an animal's health is poor so is its welfare; but when an animal's health is good its welfare may still be poor ... In [our strategy] we conveyed our agreed ethical position as an animal welfare-focused progression. The strategy promotes collaborative veterinary advocacy for animals' best interests."

Mr Wensley spoke to many of the actions outlined by the jointly led BVA and RCVS Vet Futures project, including:
"Delivering an animal welfare strategy for the profession and developing strong veterinary representation and leadership are amongst the ambitions and actions laid out in the Vet Futures report, which launched in its action plan at the Vet Futures summit in July. Vet Futures also lays our path towards thriving, innovative veterinary businesses, career satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Vet Futures is triggering inspiring and forward-looking initiatives and activities within the profession."

Mr Wensley outlined a number of BVA positions that have been developed on other animal welfare and ethical challenges during his Presidency as well as BVA's role in representing the veterinary profession to promote responsible pet ownership to the wider public:
"We have been in the national media to provide our ethical justifications for veterinary treatment and private veterinary costs [and] we have spoken unequivocally in the national media about the many health harms of brachycephaly. Just a fortnight ago, after a five year campaign, we welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement that it will ban performing wild animals in travelling circuses."

On welfare at slaughter, Mr Wensley said:
"Our strong objection [to the WATOK Regulations], in association with the Veterinary Public Health Association, prompted a House of Lords debate. We conveyed our position that all abattoirs ... should have mandatory CCTV and unrestricted access to footage by Veterunary surgeons. These campaign calls will continue."

On disease surveillance, Mr Wensley said:
"We have repeatedly lobbied Ministers for the protection of essential disease surveillance and celebrated successes with decisions to retain threatened surveillance units in Inverness and Omagh. Meanwhile, working with our Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Branches, and specialist associations, we have encouraged and welcomed the roll-out of [a number of programmes] ... issued advice for members ... and secured national news coverage on seasonal risk[s]."

Mr Wensley highlighted antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as "one of the most pressing global issues" and shared with BVA members the interdisciplinary work BVA is doing to help tackle AMR.

On BVA's recent governance Review, Mr Wensley said:
"Our new committee structure will be based on nimble, time-limited working groups. Veterinary specialists in animal welfare and ethics, as well as animal welfare scientists, will be seeded throughout these groups and represented on our policy committee. We have continued to put much effort in to developing strong working relations with our specialist and affiliated associations."

On mental wellbeing, Mr Wensley commended supportive initiatives by BVA's specialist divisions before adding:
"I was delighted that BVA could announce that we have now expanded our support and services to recent graduates, through the allocation of dedicated staff resource to the Young Vet Network, as well as funding support.

Of Brexit, Mr Wensley said:
"We acted swiftly to urge the Secretary of State and devolved Environment Ministers to protect the status of [non-British EU] vet and vet nurse colleagues who, we emphasised, are making invaluable contributions in essential areas. We have since held the first meeting of our Brexit working group [and] will ensure the veterinary voice is heard ... wherever we can."

Concluding his speech, Mr Wensley quoted BVA Past President Basil Buxton (1925) and reflected on BVA's current role 90 years on:
“[BVA's] 'function is to … collect and to condense the numerous rays of individual opinion and to focus them in such a manner that the concentrated beam shall have greater force.' I know Gudrun will maintain this sense of focus.

"The world has moved on and BVA has moved on."

Read Sean Wensley's full speech (160 KB PDF)