British Veterinary Association (BVA) president, Justine Shotton, has highlighted the central role that veterinarians will play in delivering a more sustainable farming industry.

Shotton spoke at the 2021 annual dinner hosted by the BVA in Northern Ireland during which she referred to the future framework strategy document, recently published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)  

“BVA was pleased to see DAERA recognising the importance of sustainability in its future agricultural policy, and putting it front and centre by making ‘sustainability at the heart of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone’ the tagline for the framework,” she said.

She continued:

“But, we were disappointed that this document seemed distinctly lighter on detail when it comes to the role of the veterinary profession in achieving the stated aims.

“In fact, there is very little mention of animal health and welfare at all.

“Vets have an integral part to play in securing positive outcomes for animal health and welfare and public health, but also in supporting the wider goals around environmental protection, resilience and productivity.

“We had some success last year after calling on the UK government to use public money to incentivise and support animal health and welfare outcomes as public goods.

“And in England, the soon-to-be-launched Animal Health and Welfare Pathway underlines the real benefits to be had from veterinary involvement and all parties working together with clear goals in mind. We can see similar opportunities emerging in Northern Ireland, and we’re keen to see these seized as early as possible.”

Shotton pointed out that vets are critical in ensuring high levels of biosecurity and monitoring and mitigating against disease risks, including those that can pose a threat to human health.

She said:

“In Northern Ireland over the past year it’s been incredibly positive to see attention turning to how we protect our livestock from, and eventually eradicate, one of the most devastating of these diseases – bovine tuberculosis (TB).

BVA supporting partnership approach

“BVA fully supports the development of a partnership approach involving farmers, vets and government. It’s the best way to encourage engagement and ownership, and ensure that the eradication strategy is unified and appropriate to the local area.”

Beyond TB, Shotton amplified the importance of control programmes for other diseases including bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) and Johne’s disease.

She explained:

“Keeping animals healthy is one of the veterinary profession’s greatest contributions to environmental sustainability by reducing waste in the agricultural sector. “

The BVA president continued:

“Next month World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021 takes place and there is a lot of work underway and upcoming to protect our antibiotics for the future.

“This year saw the launch of the Farm Vet Champions scheme, a major project which will work to unite and empower farm vets as they establish good antimicrobial stewardship both on farm and in practice.”

She concluded:

“And it’s positive to see that attention has also turned recently to what we can do to tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in small-animal practice too.

“AMR is a ‘One Health’ issue; it’s vital that we build on the sterling work so far and do everything we can to reduce risks and address the challenges ahead for future generations.”