Scotland setting the example on animal welfare, says British Veterinary Association

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Sean Wensley praised Scotland on its leadership in many areas of animal welfare, but also called on the Government, farmers and vets to ensure hard won ground was not lost, during his speech at BVA’s annual Scottish Dinner on Tuesday September 13.

Addressing almost 100 guests at the Scottish Parliament, including the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP, parliamentarians, key representatives from animal health and welfare organisations, and colleagues from across the veterinary profession, the BVA President said:

“It seems fitting that my penultimate speech as BVA President is in Scotland, a country that has led the way on tackling many animal welfare problems.”

At the start of Mr Wensley’s speech he highlighted the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce a Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, which BVA called for in its manifesto that launched ahead of May’s national election. Mr Wensley said:

“We whole-heartedly welcome last week’s announcement … This is an issue that BVA has been campaigning on and, while it may not affect a great number of individual animals in the UK, the use of wild animals in travelling circuses is emblematic of the way we treat all animals in the human-animal age. We commend the Scottish Government for seizing this opportunity to improve animal welfare – and we’re urging other UK governments to follow your precedent.”

Throughout his speech, Mr Wensley outlined a number of forward-thinking Scotland-specific initiatives like projects between the veterinary profession and NHS to advocate the health harms of passive smoking to pets and people, the Government-led review in to exotic (non-traditional) pets, and the innovative use of wrasse as a solution to sea lice thus reducing the need for veterinary medicines.

Highlighting Scotland’s ongoing efforts to protect animal health and control animal disease, he said:

“Close Government, farmer and vet links must continue to progress the excellent work that has been done so far into the now-notifiable disease Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED); towards eliminating mange from pig herds; and on the eradication scheme for BVD. We’d like to see the Government capitalise on this momentum and support farmers and vets in the development of control measures for Johne’s disease and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis amongst others.”

Mr Wensley emphasised that 2016 is a pivotal year for animal welfare, partly due to the anniversary of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006:

“As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the Act, Scottish Government must stick to Schedule and conduct a review to ensure it is effective in protecting the welfare of Scotland’s animals.”

He also called on the Scottish Government to ensure hard won ground on animal welfare was not lost on both national and international issues:

“Scotland also led the way on tail docking of dogs, and this ban must be maintained if a leadership position is to be retained in Scotland … anything but retention of a ban on tail docking across all breeds would be a retrograde step for animal welfare in Scotland.”

Commenting on the outcome of the UK’s EU Referendum earlier this year, Mr Wensley emphasised:

“A key objective post Brexit must be that the UK does not slip in its world leading outlook and outputs on animal welfare.”

The BVA President ended his speech by highlighting the veterinary profession’s unique opportunity and responsibility to advocate animals’ best interests in spite of the unique challenges that vets in parts of Scotland face:

“Recruitment and retention to rural, mixed practices in areas of Scotland is a major challenge, which results in a small number of vets … shouldering that enormous burden.

“Vets, however remote, are crucial links in the chain of guardianship and gatekeeping that safeguards human and animal health and protects animal welfare.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP responded to the BVA President’s speech. BVA Junior Vice President and BVA Scottish Branch President Grace Webster will discuss many of BVA’s priority issues with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, following BVA’s annual Scottish Dinner, on Wednesday 14 September.