All creatures small and great: insect-eating and global health

Posted on October 06, 2015 by Sean Wensley

The Officers’ diaries fill quickly, with daily opportunities to learn more about the profession’s work and to proudly represent and champion what we do. Sadly it’s not possible to attend everything, and conflicting commitments mean I’m unable to make either of these forthcoming events, but readers may be interested and might be able to attend....

Insects, food for thought and vets!

Bee landing on a flowerFirst is the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE)’s joint meeting with the Royal Dutch Veterinary Association on “Insects, food for thought and vets!”, on 9 October in the Netherlands.

As I have written previously, in introducing my Presidential theme – “ Vets in the human-animal age” – the growing global demand for meat and dairy products is being increasingly examined for its environmental, animal welfare and human health impacts. Food-demand management may be required to mitigate these impacts – as BVA Congress (19-20 November) delegates will hear from the British Medical Association’s Dr Vivienne Nathanson - as well as the need to find alternative protein sources such as insects.

The FVE conference recognises the relevance of this emerging sector to vets and will explore the profession’s potential roles. Veterinary interest in invertebrate health and welfare isn’t new, with pioneers of veterinary zoological medicine such as Professor John Cooper publishing on “Anaesthesia of the medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis)” (Cooper et al 1986), “A veterinary approach to spiders” (Cooper 1987) and “Snails and snail farming: An introduction for the veterinary profession” (Cooper and Knowler 1991).

As John Chitty, RCVS Advanced Practitioner in Zoological Medicine and BSAVA Junior Vice President, highlights in his 2015 In Practice article, "Invertebrate medicine for the general practitioner”, captive invertebrates are valued in zoological collections, research facilities, as pets, as biological pest control and elsewhere. And who could forget bees and other pollinators, whose declines and their effects on food production, have grown in political and public awareness, with the 10 year national pollinator strategy in England approaching its first anniversary next month. We can be proud of colleagues in the British Bee Veterinary Association, which held its inaugural meeting in April this year, and the contributions that they will make to understanding and addressing the challenges faced by these essential insects.

Global health and neglected diseases

Vets operating on a dog in IndiaThe second meeting, a day later (10 October) is the launch event – “Neglect” - of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) Global Health Society, the newest branch of Medsin UK – a “student network and registered charity tackling global and local health inequalities through education, advocacy and community action.” This will feature an afternoon of TED-style talks on neglected diseases and issues relating to global health, with speakers including Professor Deborah Briggs, Board Chair at the Global Alliance for Rabies Control UK; Mark Rweyemamu, Executive Director at the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS) in Tanzania; and Dr Jeremy Salt, Senior R&D Director at GALVMed.

Association of Veterinary Students (AVS) President and RVC student Helena Diffey tweeted a few days ago that over 100 students signed up to the RVC Global Health Society at the Freshers’ Fair, and has told us that the inaugural meeting is open to all – students, academics, vets and non-vets alike – very reasonable at £10 including food and a drinks reception!

VetFutures – the joint BVA/RCVS project preparing for and shaping the profession’s future – is exploring areas including the growing requirement for veterinary professionals to help tackle global challenges, as well as the need for novel, diverse and satisfying career paths for increasing numbers of veterinary graduates. Finding out about activities and events like these from FVE and the RVC students gives optimism in the profession’s ability to respond.

BVA Congress is being held at the London Vet Show. All LVS attendees are welcome – you don’t have to be a BVA member to attend the BVA Congress sessions – and the BVA Congress sessions count towards CPD, despite being non-clinical (which we’re sometimes asked). The speakers and programme are exceptional - it would be fantastic to see you there.


London Vet Show takes place at Olympia, London on 19 and 20 November. BVA members get 15% off the lowest advertised ticket price. Use #VetShow to keep up to date with news on Twitter.

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.