Vets urge Northern Ireland Assembly candidates to take ‘One Health’ action

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With campaigning for next month’s election (5 May) in full swing, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and BVA Northern Ireland Branch have launched a manifesto urging incoming parliamentarians to take action on animal health and welfare as part of a One Health government agenda.

BVA’s ‘The veterinary profession’s manifesto for Northern Ireland 2016–2021’ was developed drawing on the expertise and experiences of BVA’s members working throughout Northern Ireland and in all areas of the veterinary profession, and makes clear recommendations in three key areas: safeguarding animal health, promoting animal welfare and recognising the vital role of veterinary surgeons.

“Delivering positive change for animal health and welfare requires partnership working - and the announcement last year that Northern Ireland had been granted Officially Brucellosis Free status is testament to the effectiveness of that joined up working between government, farmers and vets to eradicate the disease. And we must continue to work together to tackle other endemic diseases, and health and welfare issues like the breeding and sale of dogs.”

Seamus O’Kane, President, BVA Northern Ireland Branch

The Northern Ireland manifesto sets out almost 20 policy recommendations that provide a clear pathway towards improving animal health and welfare, and challenges the next government to:

* Support vets and farmers in combating endemic livestock diseases, for example through the compulsory bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) testing scheme in Northern Ireland and the voluntary all-island control programme to tackle Johne’s disease.

* Protect the welfare of animals by requiring all animals to be stunned before slaughter to ensure they are insensible to pain: there is no non-stun slaughter currently carried out in Northern Ireland but, while non-stun is permitted under the EU derogation, the next government should introduce measures to label meat as stunned or non-stunned to allow consumers to make an informed choice.

* Review the outcomes of the Test and Vaccinate or Remove (TVR) project; moving towards a comprehensive programme to eradicate bovine TB that includes a regime of controls such as risk-based biosecurity measures, cattle controls, badger vaccination where appropriate and available, and the humane culling of badgers via cage trapping and shooting only.

* Increase collaboration and integration of the veterinary and medical professions to promote the responsible use of antimicrobials.

* Ensure robust enforcement of existing legislation to tackle illegal import of puppies across borders due to the associations with disease, dog welfare and behavioural problems.

Ban the keeping of primates as pets and the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, as their welfare needs cannot be met.

Embrace partnership working between government and the veterinary profession, recognising the unique skills, knowledge and expertise of veterinary surgeons across animal health and welfare and public health.

BVA Northern Ireland Branch President Seamus O’Kane said: “Delivering positive change for animal health and welfare requires partnership working - and the announcement last year that Northern Ireland had been granted Officially Brucellosis Free status is testament to the effectiveness of that joined up working between government, farmers and vets to eradicate the disease. And we must continue to work together to tackle other endemic diseases, and health and welfare issues like the breeding and sale of dogs.

“As vets, we carry out our roles for the public good and, as such, we are in a unique position from which to offer evidence-based and informed advice and policy recommendations. We are on the frontline caring for animals, detecting and treating disease, and undertaking pioneering research into animal and public health – and we look forward to working with the next government in Northern Ireland.”

BVA President Sean Wensley said: “Through our daily work, and these manifestos, we believe vets are in a unique position from which to offer the next government in Northern Ireland evidence-based advice and recommendations for animal health and welfare policy. The forthcoming elections affect us all and, as a nation that prides itself on high and continuously improving animal welfare standards, we urge the incoming government to put animal health and welfare on their agenda and champion the concept of One Health in recognition of the inextricable links between animals, humans and our shared living environment.”

BVA’s manifesto will be sent to all candidates who are standing for election, relevant animal health and welfare government groups, BVA honorary associate MPs, Peers & MEPs, and Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey. Following the election, BVA will also share the document with newly elected Members.

For more information about BVA’s ‘The veterinary profession’s manifesto for Northern Ireland 2016–2021’, please visit http://www.bva.co.uk/News-campaigns-and-policy/Campaigns/Northern-Ireland-Assembly/.