Veterinary Profession’s Role in Safeguarding Animal Welfare, Promoting International Trade and Protecting Public Health Highlighted at Parliamentary Reception

David Babington, Robert Buckland and Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham Selly Oak)

[L-R]David Babington, Robert Buckland and Steve McCabe MP

The vital role of the veterinary profession in ensuring a bright future for UK agriculture and in protecting animals and people from exotic and endemic diseases was highlighted at a parliamentary reception on Wednesday 25 January 2017.  Hosted by Robert Buckland QC, MP Swindon South, on behalf of Improve International, it was attended by MPs, members of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Official Veterinarians (OVs) – private vets who are authorised to carry out work on behalf of government – and other veterinary opinion leaders.

During the reception, James Russell, director of a mixed veterinary practice in Derbyshire and board member of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, stressed the importance of veterinary-led education, giving the example of a 9% reduction in the use of antimicrobials in production animals achieved by vets working in partnership with farmers during 2015. He also cited the on-going campaign to tackle bovine TB which remains the single most important disease currently affecting farm livestock, including the recent ‘TB Farm Advice’ workshops run for vets by Improve International.

“Vets are hailed as one of the most trusted sources of information by farmers and pet owners alike. Our knowledge – and particularly that of OVs – must be up to date to ensure we are equipped to tackle the challenges we face, especially as the UK starts to enter negotiations to extricate itself from the Common Agricultural Policy during the next few years. The advice we give to farmers could be pivotal in protecting their future – and the UK’s agricultural sector.”

Ian Wright, UK head of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites, explained the risk to the UK of exotic parasites with the potential to cause serious disease or death in dogs, cats – and people. He said: “During 2016 dogs in Essex were found to be carrying the Babesia canis parasite which is not native to the UK.  This parasite is dangerous to dogs if not caught quickly though it does not present a zoonotic risk.  It caused concern among vets and public health organisations, however, because it is a sentinel for parasites with zoonotic potential such as Echinococcus multilocularis and tick borne encephalitis.  If Babesia canis can reach the UK, then other potentially much more dangerous parasites will also find their way.

“The role of vets, working in collaboration with government and industry, is key to maintaining the UK’s biosecurity, as well as protecting animal welfare.  We need well-trained OVs to give accurate travel advice to owners and all veterinary professionals must be alert to the risks we face and be vigilant.”

David Babington, Managing Director of Improve International added: “The issues of veterinary public health, human health and international trade are closely linked and interdependent.  If vets can work with farmers, pet owners, government and industry to reduce the threat of exotic diseases and help to eradicate endemic diseases we will both increase animal welfare and protect human health.  Healthy farm animals are more productive so, in addition, we will also support farmers, who make such an important contribution to UK trade.

 “We are delighted to be working with APHA and our partners to help to provide the continuing veterinary education needed to ensure that the veterinary profession as a whole, and OVs in particular, are equipped both to tackle the disease threats we are already facing and to be vigilant to future threats.”

Robert Buckland QC, MP for Swindon South, the constituency in which Improve International is based, said: “It is important to understand and celebrate the importance of the hard work being carried out by members of the veterinary profession every day across the length and breadth of the country.  Their role will become even more important in the years ahead.”

Improve International handles OV registration and training in England, Scotland and Wales in conjunction with its assessment partner the European School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies (ESVPS) and Harper Adams University, which validates the qualifications.  It also hosts an annual conference for OVs, in association with APHA which, this year, takes place at Alexandra House in Swindon on 21-22 September 2017 under the theme: ‘Safeguarding international trade through disease control and surveillance.’

For more information on the Official Veterinarian Conference and Exhibition or to register visit: www.officialvet.com