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BVA Puts Science At Heart Of Annual Welsh Dinner Speech

14 years ago

7th July, 2010 00h00

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) reiterated its support for the Welsh Assembly Government’s proposed badger cull to tackle bovine Tuberculosis as part of a keynote speech highlighting the importance of science-based policies at the annual BVA Welsh dinner, held at Cardiff City Hall on Tuesday 6th July 2010. BVA President Professor Bill Reilly also praised the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) for taking the lead on companion animal health and welfare issues at the dinner attended by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones AM, parliamentarians, key representatives of animal health and welfare organisations and the agri-food industry, senior members of the veterinary profession, and members of the media. Professor Reilly also challenged the WAG on a number of key issues, including the future of Official Veterinarian (OV) services, funding for a UK-wide advisory group on dog welfare, and the WAG’s commitment to improving the welfare of animals before slaughter. Minister for Rural Affairs Elin Jones AM responded on behalf of the guests. On bovine TB, Professor Reilly said: “During the Welsh Assembly debate on the motion to annul the TB Eradication Order Mark Isherwood AM referenced the views of the BVA in support of the proposed cull. In summary he said, ‘Who do you think knows best, the British Veterinary Association or a bunch of politicians?’ “It was perhaps a flippant remark, but it is also one that underlines the importance of science, expertise, and research being at the centre of policy making. The BVA, and its 12,000 members, don’t support a cull for political reasons, but because of our scientific understanding of TB and the way it spreads.” Following the Welsh Assembly Government announcement on the Court of Appeal, Professor Reilly added: “Right now, the future of the TB Eradication Programme rests with the Court of Appeal. We noted with interest your announcement yesterday, Minister, of the decision not to go ahead on a whole-Wales basis at this stage, but to focus on the intensive action pilot area in west Wales in order to address one of the grounds for appeal. This seems to be a very pragmatic and sensible approach, which should not impact on the overall eradication programme.” On Official Veterinarians, Professor Reilly said: “The threat of exotic disease looms large at all times and one of the major ‘public good’ functions of the veterinary profession is in disease surveillance. But I’m afraid that function is in jeopardy as the work of Official Veterinarians (OVs) is at risk of being undermined by Animal Health. “This shock announcement [that OV work will be put out to tender] has left the veterinary profession with a number of grave concerns, not least the significant potential for loss of goodwill and a decision by veterinary practices to no longer provide OV services.” On companion animal issues, Professor Reilly said that Wales is leading the rest of the UK. He said: “Here in Wales the Task and Finish Group on dog breeding has already made enormous headway in tackling the problems associated with puppy farms. I am delighted that you have today, Minister, announced your intention to amend existing controls on dog breeding and introduce microchipping of all puppies sold or homed by breeding establishments. “The significant health and welfare problems of bitches and puppies in puppy farms are shameful and I hope that the new measures will go a long way to tackling these rogue traders.” Professor Reilly also called for more government funding for dog health and welfare: “Although we have been pleased to work with the Welsh, Scottish and UK Governments through the Dog Review Board, we remain disappointed at the level of commitment from ministers to properly resource an official independent advisory body that would be afforded the status of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, for example, and we are concerned that the new body could simply be ignored.” Finally, on welfare labelling, Professor Reilly said: “I applaud your commitment to locally-sourced food, Minister, but we were disappointed that no mention of promoting better animal health and welfare was made in the food procurement framework. We need public bodies to take the lead in promoting higher standards of animal welfare if we want consumers to follow. “We are campaigning for one clear EU-wide label that indicates higher animal welfare throughout the process, including birth, production, transport and slaughter. The current range of labels is confusing for consumers who want to make a positive, pro-welfare choice in the shops and supermarkets, and who are prepared to pay a little extra to do so.”

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