Strong veterinary workforce vital for the future of Scotland’s animal and human health

17 May 2017

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Gudrun Ravetz called for parliamentarians and policymakers to recognise the unique role and responsibility that vets play in order to secure the best health and welfare outcomes for Scotland’s animals and wider public, during her speech at BVA’s annual Scottish Dinner on Tuesday 16 May.

Addressing almost 100 guests at the Scottish Parliament, including guest speaker Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP, parliamentarians, key representatives from animal health and welfare organisations, and senior colleagues from across the veterinary profession, the BVA President said:
“A strong veterinary workforce is vital to maintaining high animal welfare and food safety standards. Not a penny of Scotland’s £2 billion agri-food outputs could be realised without vets; veterinary teams support half of all Scotland’s households, which own pets; and vets are an integral part of the international scientific community … which is being put to good use in Scotland’s world-leading veterinary schools and research institutes.”

BVA President Scottish Dinner speech 2017 (363 KB PDF)

Highlighting that approximately 50% of vets registering to practise in the UK come from the rest of the EU, Ms Ravetz reiterated one of BVA’s key asks for forthcoming Brexit negotiations; that the Government guarantee working rights for non-British EU vets and vet nurses currently working and studying in the UK at the existing level, and with no time limit.

Emphasising the BVA’s keenness to continue working with Scottish Government to develop and implement policy where possible, the BVA President praised Scotland for leading the way on many animal health and welfare initiatives. Commenting on last week’s announcement of a package of welfare measures, she said:
“If Scotland sticks to schedule it will be heralded as the first country in the UK to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. This is an issue that BVA has long campaigned on and, while it may not affect a great number of individual animals, the use of wild animals in this way is emblematic of the way we treat all animals.”

However, Ms Ravetz also called on the Scottish Government to ensure hard won ground on animal welfare was not lost. She said:
“When it comes to incremental change having a significant impact on animal welfare, we were extremely disappointed at the proposed controls around dogs’ electronic training collars and the tail docking legislation. Without an outright ban on both of these issues, we have grave concerns over how enforceability will work – and the toll they will take on overall dog welfare.

“Vets hold the unique opportunity and responsibility to advocate animals' best interests at individual, community and national levels – as outlined in our strategy, 'Vets speaking up for animal welfare' (1.3 MB PDF). It is essential that policymakers recognise the importance of the veterinary profession and consider how best to utilise our unique skills, knowledge and expertise.”

Highlighting recent work to protect production animal welfare, Ms Ravetz emphasised the need for effective partnership working:
“Last year’s Avian Influenza outbreak, which hit a farm near Dunfermline, and many others throughout Great Britain, reinforces the need for a robust surveillance system, underpinned by vets’ frontline presence, to protect the health of our livestock.

“Building on this momentum [of the Scottish Government’s application for BSE Negligible Risk status], we would like to see the tripartite partnership of Government, vets and farmers continue, progressing the excellent work done so far through the development of control measures for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Johne's disease”

The BVA President ended her speech by highlighting issues facing the veterinary and, by extension, rural communities in Scotland specifically. She said:
“Vets are crucial links in the chain of guardianship and gatekeeping that safeguards human and animal health, and protects animal welfare. And that is why we are so concerned about recruitment and retention. It is a major challenge throughout rural Scotland, and the Government’s financial support for the Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services Scheme is invaluable in enabling the provision of vital veterinary services in these hard to reach places.

“There, a small number of vets shoulder an enormous burden, with potential impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, which is why initiatives like the Government-backed ‘National Rural Mental Health Forum’ are also welcomed ... connecting people in their local communities – where vets are often the first point of call for farmers and pet owners.”

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP responded to the BVA President's speech.

BVA Media Office