Antibiotics, slaughter, and Ebola – all part of the new job....

Posted on October 16, 2014 by John Blackwell

Just coming to the end of my first two weeks in office as I head home before going just up the road to the BVNA Congress in Telford. My first presidential engagement was to deliver a short presentation on the veterinary surgeon’s role in diagnosis treatment and prevention of disease with reference to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This was at the 3rd International Conference on AMR in Animals held in Amsterdam.

As you can imagine there was a strong European contingent at the conference, including UK delegates, but equally a goodly amount of delegates from the USA,  Latin America, Australia, Japan, China, and some that had worked extensively in developing countries. All had different perspectives, but a common goal indicating that the profile of this issue is indeed global.

At BVA we’re making preparations for the European Antibiotic Awareness Day and one thing that’s worth a mention is to ask you all to sign up to become an “Antibiotic Guardian” and make a pledge to make a difference. Find out more at 

Frustratingly, in my first week we were also made aware of the opening of an abattoir in Caernarfon that intends to carry out non-stun slaughter of sheep for the Halal trade. Our campaign on this issue continues with our focus on animal welfare at the point of death being compromised by the animal being slaughtered without prior stunning. We are trying to gather more information on this venture and engaging, through BVA Welsh Branch, with the farming community and Welsh Government to raise awareness of what we consider to be a retrograde step. Our government epetition continues to grow (as does the RSPCA Cymru-led petition) and I would urge you to highlight these and encourage as many people to sign up as you can.

I made the trip up to Leeds at the end of the week to attend the annual dinner of the Yorkshire Veterinary Society. This was extremely well attended indicating that after 150 years there is still a vibrant heart that brings practising vets in Yorkshire together. I made a small speech after the dinner referencing the RCVS survey and in particular the question referring to vets aged 20-29 who, when asked if they would be a vet again, 24% said ‘no’ and a further 32% said they would seriously have to think about it. Something is obviously broken in our profession and we need to identify it and attempt a fix!

We’ve had a flurry of media this week  which can be paraphrased as “the curious incident of the dog – in Spain” with Spanish authorities going to court to get a destruction order for the pet of the nurse who contracted Ebola virus from a repatriated patient. Quite rightly the epidemic has been centre stage this week and it is hoped that any reaction to incursion within these shores would be met with robust disease control measures aimed at containment and risk elimination, which should include a measured focus on how to manage in-contacts, including animals. As I suspect clients may be asking questions on this we are producing a short statement and signposting some further information that we feel will be useful to you.


John Blackwell

Written by John Blackwell

BVA President from September 2014 to September 2015

John is a farm animal and equine practitioner, and a director at Brownlow Veterinary Centre in Shropshire. Follow John on Twitter