Vets speaking up for animal welfare

Posted on February 03, 2016 by Sean Wensley

animal welfare strategy front coverThis evening (3 February), BVA’s animal welfare strategy – “Vets speaking up for animal welfare” - will be launched at the annual BVA London Dinner, to a roomful of key influencers including Defra Minister George Eustice MP, other MPs and Peers, industry representatives, NGOs, journalists, retailers and animal welfare scientists.

Following over a year of consultation with BVA members, committees, Council, specialist divisions, branches, academic institutions, government, non-governmental organisations and others, the strategy will present a framework for the veterinary profession’s future plans as an animal welfare-focused profession. It highlights our profession’s unique opportunity, and responsibility, to advocate animals’ best interests at individual, community and national levels.

Our animal welfare declaration

The primacy of animal welfare for veterinary surgeons is reflected in the declaration that each of us makes upon admission to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons:

“…ABOVE ALL, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care”.

It is also central to veterinary identity – animal welfare has been identified as a top lobbying priority of BVA members in our most recent member research surveys, and leadership in animal health and welfare is one of the six key ambitions for the 2030 vision of the veterinary profession in the Vet Futures report.

Acting at different levels

But what does this leadership look like in practice and how can BVA best support the profession to achieve it? Our consultation asked what it meant to respondents at the individual level (through veterinary surgeons’ direct interactions with animal keepers and owners), the community level (eg veterinary practices undertaking outreach in their local communities) and the national level (veterinary associations acting to achieve political and societal influence).


The results, now published in the strategy, highlight the importance of considering and assessing animal welfare in a contemporary and holistic way, to reflect the five welfare needs in the UK animal welfare acts. Important determinants of an animal’s quality of life, such as the ability to express important normal behaviours, and have appropriate companionship, as well as be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, are all important.

The strategy recognises the veterinary surgeon’s trilemma, where our duties to animals, clients and the businesses we work for can sometimes conflict – but emphasises that our primary duty and motivation must be to improve animal welfare. And it gives a mandate for us to continue advocating for animals’ best interests – both in clinical settings, but also as veterinary associations, building on BVA’s high-profile campaign to end slaughter without pre-stunning.

As there are numerous animal welfare problems, the strategy emphasises the importance of continued partnership working with NGOs, industry and others.

Next steps?

As with any strategy, most important is what happens next. We will develop tools and resources to assist members, and work with BVA specialist divisions to address agreed priority welfare problems in each sector. Please let us know what you would most like to see being developed, to help you.

For now, it is last minute preparations for the London Dinner. We will present a strong voice for vets and send a clear signal that the veterinary profession will be a considerable force for good, for animals and for an increasingly compassionate society, in the years ahead.

Sean

Sean WensleyWritten by Sean Wensley
BVA President from September 2015 to September 2016

Follow @SeanWensley on Twitter

Sean is Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at PDSA, based in Northern Ireland. He is also an Honorary Lecturer in animal welfare at the University of Nottingham.

Sean Wensley

Written by Sean Wensley

BVA President from September 2015 to September 2016

Sean is Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at PDSA, based in Northern Ireland. He is also an Honorary Lecturer in animal welfare at the University of Nottingham.