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BVA President Praises Scottish Vets For Sterling Efforts To Keep Animals Healthy In Difficult Times

1 year ago

18th May, 2022 14h25


British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Justine Shotton last night (Tuesday 17 May) celebrated the work of veterinary teams across Scotland to make animal health and welfare a top priority despite contending with multiple pressures in recent times.

In her speech to around 70 guests at BVA’s Annual Scottish Dinner at the Scottish Parliament, Dr Shotton said that Scottish vets had worked incredibly hard to keep animals healthy, protect public health and keep the food chain moving against a backdrop of Covid, Brexit and a recent surge in pet ownership.  However, she cautioned that this has been an incredibly challenging time, saying:

“But we also need to acknowledge that this has come at a significant – and ultimately unsustainable – cost to the profession’s capacity and wellbeing.  If we are going to cope with ongoing and new or unforeseen challenges ahead, we need action now to improve recruitment, retention and rates of return to veterinary work, to ensure that all existing vets can feel supported, safe and rewarded in their careers, and to encourage future vets from all walks of life to follow in our footsteps.”

Addressing guests including Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, MSPs, key representatives from animal health and welfare organisations and colleagues from across the veterinary profession, BVA’s President called on Scottish and UK governments, animal owners, the profession itself and vets of the future to take a range of actions to help create a “flexible, resilient and future-proofed workforce”. 

These ranged from ensuring that new vet schools such as the site proposed by the SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) are adequately funded, to reminding animal owners to “Respect Your Vet” and the difficult decisions that they have had to make to keep colleagues and clients safe during the pandemic.  Dr Shotton also praised the recent “Vetastic Adventures” project, where BVA teamed up with the Scottish SPCA to showcase veterinary careers in a fun and accessible way for both primary and secondary school pupils in Scotland. 

Reflecting on recent months, Dr Shotton said that the profession’s “resilience and dedication” had really shone through in how vets had responded to and mitigated against recent disease outbreaks in Scotland and across the UK, including the Avian Influenza outbreak.  She said that with disease control sitting within the scope of the proposed new Scottish Veterinary Service it was important to make sure that systems collaborated closely with the rest of the UK and beyond, cautioning:

“I don’t have to tell any of you around the room tonight that diseases and animal welfare problems don’t respect borders.  It will therefore be critical that the new service has systems that collaborate and liaise with the rest of the UK, and beyond, on disease surveillance, data collection, and information sharing.  We’re engaging closely to ensure that veterinary expertise is at the heart of these new proposals.” 

Turning to animal welfare legislation, Dr Shotton said that BVA was really pleased by the Scottish Government’s commitment to banning the sale and use of glue traps, describing them as “inhumane devices, which subject trapped animals to prolonged pain and suffering and can often accidentally trap non-target species including cats and birds.”  She called for similar action against snares, as they can also cause significant and needless harm to animals, including pets and protected wildlife.

On pet welfare, Dr Shotton acknowledged some significant campaign wins in the past year, including BVA successfully lobbying alongside others for the UK Government to take action against the “barbaric and purely cosmetic practice” of cropping dogs’ ears.  She said that BVA will now be turning its attention to the rise of canine fertility clinics in Scotland and the rest of the UK, saying:

“We are building a picture of the scale and severity of this worrying trend, and already seeing multiple red flags in the clinics, which may be operating with no regulation or veterinary oversight.  The recent action taken against a clinic owner in Lanarkshire following a joint investigation exemplifies what can be achieved when we come together to clamp down on unregulated and dangerous practices.”

The BVA President ended her speech by thanking BVA Scottish Branch colleagues for all their support, and welcoming Gareth Hateley, who was formally elected as the new Branch Junior Vice President at the AGM on Tuesday afternoon.

Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, responded to the speech as BVA’s Guest of Honour.

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