Stormont Agriculture Committee chairman William Irwin MLA has hosted the British Veterinary Association Northern Ireland dinner at Stormont.
Mr Irwin welcomed guests from across the agriculture spectrum in Northern Ireland including Ulster Farmers’ Union representatives, banking officials, politicians and BVA members.
Mr Irwin said it was “an honour” to host the event, stating: “It was a pleasure to be asked by the BVA to host their annual dinner and to welcome guests from right across the agriculture industry. Vets of course play a huge role in the running of a farm and as someone who has called on their services many times on my own family farm, I am acutely aware of the challenges they face.
“It was a privilege to give a welcome address to the gathering and to share a little of my experiences as Chair of the ARD committee and also where I feel the challenges lie in terms of disease control and animal health.”
Northern Ireland’s animal health and welfare initiatives place a spotlight on the power of partnership, said British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Sean Wensley in his speech.
Mr Wensley opened his speech by outlining the wide ranging involvement of the veterinary profession in political and public life. He said: “Human and animal health and wellbeing are inextricably linked... there is a clear need for partnership working when it comes to this area, and we were delighted to welcome the launch of the new Northern Ireland All Party Group on Animal Welfare providing another strong and joined-up voice for animal welfare in the Assembly.”
Chief veterinary officer Robert Huey responded on behalf of DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill to Mr Wensley’s speech.
Praising the collaborative effort of local vets, farmers and ministers in surveillance and biosecurity, Mr Wensley highlighted Northern Ireland’s recently awarded Officially Brucellosis Free status (September 2015) – acknowledging in particular the hard work of former chief veterinary officer Bert Houston and current CVO Robert Huey.
Mr Wensley continued: “In our role as guardians against disease in animals we need to be vigilant and continue to work together to keep up the excellent standards of biosecurity achieved so far.”
Mr Wensley acknowledged the continued work of the Omagh laboratory; commended the establishment of the TB Strategic Partnership Group; and referenced the vigilance of DARD, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Animal Health and Welfare Northern Ireland (AHWNI) in ensuring systems are fit-for-purpose ahead of the roll out of promised Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) control legislation.
Mr Wensley also congratulated DARD on taking the initiative to review the 2011 Welfare of Animals Act, following publicity around large scale dog breeding, and called on England, Wales and Scotland to review the effectiveness of their equivalent legislation.
Other topics covered in the speech included: One Health; antimicrobial resistance; BVA’s welfare at slaughter campaign; sustainable animal agriculture; BVA’s Animal Welfare Strategy (2016); the NI Private Member’s Motion on the Use of Wild Animals in Circuses; and BVA’s work with the UK and Irish Pet Advertising Advisory Groups (PAAG, IPAAG) on minimum standards for online trading.