Scotland ‘leading the pack’ on animal welfare, says British Veterinary Association

16 May 2018

BVA President John Fishwick with BVA Scottish Branch colleagues ahead of the annual dinnner at the Scottish Parliament

British Veterinary Association (BVA)
President John Fishwick praised Scotland for implementing policies that
prioritise keeping animals happy, healthy and safe during his speech at BVA's
annual Scottish Dinner yesterday.

Addressing almost 100 guests at the
Scottish Parliament, including the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate
Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham MSP, parliamentarians, key
representatives from animal health and welfare organisations, and colleagues
from across the veterinary profession, the BVA President said:

“Scotland has really led the way on
developing policies that keep animal health and welfare front and centre over
the past year, and it's been especially heartening when this has also prompted
movement and debate on crucial pieces of legislation across the rest of the

Mr Fishwick highlighted several big wins
for animal welfare in Scotland in his speech, including the unanimous vote by
MSPs at the end of last year to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, and a
commitment from Scottish Government to take steps to ban the use of electric
shock collars, paving the way for the rest of the UK to give attention to the

The Scottish Government has also
championed responsible pet ownership, and lent welcome support to Breed to
Breathe, a BVA campaign launched at the start of this year which aims to raise
awareness of the health problems suffered by flat-faced dogs and cats, such as
pugs, French Bulldogs and Persian cats.

The speech, which falls in Mental Health
Awareness Week, also touched on the work of various projects that address
recruitment and retention challenges in the workforce or provide support to
vets in Scotland who are experiencing anxiety, stress or loneliness.

Mr Fishwick commended the work of the
National Rural Mental Health Forum as well as the ‘Developing the veterinary
landscape in Scotland' project, which explores how to support recent graduates,
promote collaboration and communicate about the value of vets.

He said: “The projects have much to do,
but it is incumbent on the veterinary profession to tackle issues together and
ensure that the workforce is resilient and well-supported now and going into
the future.”

Moving on to the challenges and opportunities
posed by the UK's imminent exit from the European Union, Mr Fishwick urged the
audience to support BVA's call for the Home Office to place vets on the
shortage occupation list, to safeguard against a crisis in capacity.
Recent research from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons suggested that
one in five EU vets is now actively looking for work outside of the UK, with 44
per cent saying they are ‘fearful' about what the future holds for them

He said: “There are over 2,200 vets working
in Scotland, and of these 14 per cent are non-UK EU graduates. Many of
these are playing a crucial role in supporting Scotland's agricultural industry
as a cornerstone of the economy. The impact of the loss of even a small
percentage of the veterinary workforce could have serious repercussions,
especially in slaughterhouses, where it's estimated that 95 per cent of vets
delivering vital public health roles are from overseas, mostly the EU.”

The BVA President ended his speech by
thanking BVA Scottish branch for its hard work in the past year engaging
members in policy and giving them a strong voice on key issues.

Earlier in the day, BVA Scottish Branch
welcomed a new Junior Vice President. Kathleen Robertson is a locum vet
who has had long-standing involvement with BVA as a regional representative and
branch officer.

Related BVA policy