The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has highlighted the key role that vets have to play in furthering the sustainable animal agriculture agenda in the UK. In its latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession Survey, 89% of vets said that they would like to play a more active role in this area.
The new BVA position on UK sustainable animal agriculture highlights the integral role of vets in animal agriculture and provides an action plan for vets to take action in their day-to-day lives. It says that the veterinary profession and those in the farming industry should work closely to ensure that animal health and welfare are front of mind in efforts to improve sustainability.
The position recognises that farming animals can result in significant environmental challenges and recommends that to reduce impact on the environment, changes to the way in which we farm animals for food must be made.
Due to the integral part that vets play in animal agriculture and the food sector, they are well placed to advise and influence sustainable husbandry practices and management systems from farm to fork, with a view to better protect and conserve natural resources, wild species and biodiversity.
In its recommendations, BVA says that any changes, new technologies or innovative methods used to achieve a more sustainable practice must not compromise animal health or welfare.
It also says that to be considered sustainable, agricultural systems must provide for the five animal welfare needs and that both the veterinary profession and other key stakeholders would contribute to making sure that farm animals have a good life and humane death as part of that agenda.
The position was born out of BVA’s Animal Welfare Strategy and Vet Futures initiative. As part of this, BVA has set out how vets can contribute to sustainable animal agriculture by providing an action plan. This provides top tips on how vets can contribute to sustainable animal agriculture at an individual, practice and association level.
The resource details action points such as creating plans to help control disease and increase efficiency and welfare on the farm, using tools to monitor and help reduce the use of antibiotics, advising on mutilations based on the “3Rs” (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement), and promoting higher welfare systems.
As an integral part of the One Health initiative, vets, alongside other stakeholders, can advise on the use of natural resources, management of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), soil health, water quality and habitat provision for wild species to better protect the environment that both humans and animals share. Within the context of One Health, BVA says that vets should promote the benefits of sustainable consumption of animal products and following a “Less and Better” approach. It recognises that fewer, heathier and happier animals with better productivity have a lower environmental impact and supports the purchase of higher health and welfare products (where possible) to support sustainability goals and have a positive impact on animal welfare. To facilitate this, BVA recommend that vets distribute its BVA #ChooseAssured: UK Farm Assurance Schemes Infographic to clients to help them make informed and ethical food choices.
BVA President, Simon Doherty, said: “Vets are an integral part of the agriculture and food sector, providing preventive healthcare and treatment for livestock, carrying out disease surveillance, promoting good biodiversity and high animal welfare standards. They are well placed to advise on sustainable systems and husbandry practice and collaborate with their colleagues in the agricultural industry to work towards a more sustainable future for farming.
“In its Animal Welfare Strategy, BVA committed to developing a position on sustainable animal agriculture, and we believe that the profession has a key role to play in ensuring that the highest standards of animal health and welfare are maintained and respected as part of the agenda.”