BVA President celebrates Scotland’s animal welfare successes but warns of challenges ahead

John Blackwell, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), praised Scotland for leading the way in many areas of animal welfare but also warned there are challenges ahead for the Scottish Government and vets in Scotland.

Speaking at the BVA’s annual Scottish dinner (Wednesday 13 May 2015) hosted by John Scott MSP at the Scottish Parliament, the BVA President pointed to compulsory microchipping, welfare at slaughter and the Scottish Government’s review of the pet trade in exotic animals as beacons of animal welfare. However, he also warned that Scotland needed to be on its guard against the creep of non-stun slaughter into the country and urged that the Scottish Government should stand firm on the ban on tail docking dogs.
Highlighting the vital role vets play in promoting animal welfare, Mr Blackwell commented on the Scottish Government’s review of the pet trade in exotic animals :

“We are all of us custodians of animal welfare and it is always good to see leadership where animal welfare is concerned. That is one of the reasons why BVA so warmly welcomed the announcement in February that Richard Lochhead and his department are to lead a review of the exotic pet trade in Scotland. With over 1,000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians traded every year, it is essential that legislation is robust in protecting the welfare of these animals, including the breeding and sale of the animals as pets. BVA and BVA Scottish Branch together with the British Veterinary Zoological Society look forward to contributing to this review.”

Welcoming compulsory microchipping of dogs in Scotland from Spring 2016, Mr Blackwell said:

“Another announcement from Richard’s department that we very much welcomed was the confirmation that microchipping of dogs would become compulsory in Scotland from 2016. As a founding member of the Microchipping Alliance, BVA pushed hard for the microchipping of all dogs to be made law. In the run-up to the deadline for microchipping in Scotland and across the UK, companion animal vets will be at the forefront of raising awareness, making sure dog owners know their responsibilities and have their pet safely microchipped.”

However, the BVA President also warned the Scottish Government about the welfare detriment involved in tail docking dogs and asked the Scottish Government to resist lobbying to reinstate the practice in the country:

“While BVA and BVA Scottish Branch welcome all these positive steps and the clear leadership the Scottish Government has shown on many issues, we would also advise that we need to be careful not to lose ground already gained. Tail docking of dogs is one of the areas where we need to be watchful. I would like to take this opportunity to remind the Cabinet Secretary that both BVA and BVA Scottish Branch are against tail docking of dogs. We have carefully considered all the evidence and remain convinced that tail docking in dogs is detrimental to animal welfare. This mutilation has no place in a modern, forward thinking society and I would urge him to resist lobbying by other groups to reverse the Scottish Government’s position on this.”

Scotland was praised for its high standards of welfare at slaughter, having very little non-stun slaughter. But the BVA President warned that there were challenges, such as the lack of cull sow slaughter facilities in Scotland, and that the country needed to ensure that the amount of non-stun slaughter did not rise:

“Animal welfare means welfare throughout an animal’s entire life, whatever their relationship to humans. It is particularly important to vets who work with livestock that the animals we breed for consumption are humanely treated throughout their lives including their death. Having reached well over 100,000 signatures for our petition to end non-stun slaughter, we will continue to pursue this with all UK governments.

“Scotland leads the way again with non-stun slaughter, having only a very small amount of non-stun slaughter in the poultry sector. Even though very small, we would like to see an end to this. But whilst it is allowed in Scotland under the derogation, we wish to see refinement and an acceptance of reversible head-only stunning in poultry alongside a balancing of supply and demand for those communities requiring non-stun products and labelling to allow informed choice by those who don’t.

“There are other challenges to the welfare of production animals in Scotland. Cull sows should not have to be transported over 500 miles away for slaughter and I would again like to take this opportunity to ask the Cabinet Secretary to support the building of a multi-species slaughter facility at Forfar to avoid this unnecessary and stressful transportation of animals at the end of their lives.”

As well as promoting animal welfare, the speech emphasised vets’ role in safeguarding human and animal health, including:

Ensuring Scotland retains its Officially TB Free status by controlling the disease in England and Wales
Scotland entering phase 4 of the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea eradication scheme, with 80% of animals now testing negative
A new test for sheep scab developed by the Moredun Institute being initially offered free of charge by the APHA
The work of the Scotland’s Wild Animal Welfare Committee in evaluating, monitoring, assessing and improving decisions that affect the welfare of wildlife in the UK
The ground-breaking research being carried out by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre
The importance of re-establishing a Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh
The role of GALVmed in making livestock vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible and affordable to millions in developing countries
Vets’ role in combating antimicrobial resistance and Quality Meat Scotland’s project looking at antimicrobial usage in pigs
Offering BVA and BVA Scottish Branch support to the new Food Standards Scotland
The ongoing and critical role of vets in disease surveillance, with thanks to the Scottish Government for increasing rates for Official Veterinarians
The draft legislation and consultation on making PEDv a notifiable disease in Scotland
The importance of the Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services Scheme for remote rural communities in Scotland

Mr Blackwell also paid tribute to his colleagues in the BVA Scottish Branch, thanking Ronnie Soutar for all his work as BVA Scottish Branch President in the last year and welcoming Grace Webster as the President for the coming year.

“Ronnie has been a pleasure to work with and we have managed to achieve much this year working together with our colleagues in Scotland. I am delighted to welcome Grace as BVA Scottish Branch President and know that she will help take forward the successes this year. Ronnie and Grace will be a team to be reckoned with in the nicest possible way.”

Grace Webster, BVA Scottish Branch President, commented:

“BVA Scottish Branch thoroughly supports the President’s comments in his speech here this evening and we look forward to working with him and the BVA team to build on the successes and tackle the challenges. We are proud of BVA’s on-going commitment to its members in Scotland and welcome its support for further engagement between Branch and key Scottish stakeholders.”

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