BVA explores One Health at RSPB reception

Posted on January 08, 2016 by Sean Wensley

Anyone who knows of my lifelong passion for wild birds would know that my attending the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) annual reception at the Society of Wildlife Artists exhibition would not be a hardship; but was it a worthwhile use of a BVA President’s time?

Nature and Wellbeing Act

Sean Wensley at WWT London Wetland CentreThe One Health concept promotes inter-professional working to improve the health and wellbeing of animals, people and the environment. There is growing evidence for the links between a meaningful relationship with the natural world and physical and psychological wellbeing in people.

With this in mind, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have produced a Green Paper on a proposed Nature and Wellbeing Act, which would set legally binding targets for UK biodiversity to halt further losses. Might such legislation be of interest to the medical and veterinary professions? Likely gains to public health are clear, so the involvement of medics would be unsurprising – and plans for GPs to 'prescribe nature' are already underway.

Environmental and societal influences on veterinary wellbeing

What about vets? Our interest in conserving biodiversity could simply be on animal welfare grounds – habitat loss and other drivers of endangerment can cause animal welfare harms for individual animals.

We are also likely, as an animal-interested profession, to have intrinsic moral concern for the loss of habitats and species. And we are also explicitly concerned about human wellbeing, particularly within our profession.

While there are likely to be more immediate ways of improving veterinary wellbeing than preserving biodiversity, such broader environmental and societal influences are also important. At this year’s BVA Congress at the London Vet Show, for example, Sir Anthony Seldon and Col Neil Smith examined pressures on veterinary students in the wider context of general pressures on young people. Robin Hargreaves covered this talk in his blog post All you need is love: improving veterinary wellbeing.

One Health to protect biodiversity?

Sir John Randall and Sean Wensley at RSPB receptionIf the logic is sound, a One Health coalition of environmental organisations, medical and veterinary associations sympathetic to the aims of a Nature and Wellbeing Act seems entirely plausible.

At the reception, beside scarlet macaws in tall Amazonian canopy, and a peregrine twisting after a fleeing pigeon, I met Sir John Randall who has been championing a Nature and Wellbeing Bill, and Jeff Knott, RSPB’s Head of Nature Policy. I was told that plans to pursue the Bill are presently paused, as the Government develops its 25 year plan for nature, but both were committed to pursuing the principles regardless and keen to explore veterinary involvement.

BVA One Health working group

BVA’s Overseas Group has recently established a One Health working group, which will help us develop the One Health concept and our various activities that are already improving the health and wellbeing of animals, people and the environment.

As one of Europe’s largest wildlife conservation organisations, with a strong science base, RSPB will remain a valued stakeholder as we find opportunities to strengthen our profession’s environmental activities under the One Health umbrella.

There is a current post in the BVA community asking for One Health examples from BVA members. Please take a look – it would be great to hear your views and experiences.

Sean

For more thoughts on One Health, see the blog post One Health: The vet will see you now by Robin Hargreaves


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.