It needs much more than Herriot-worship
to honor vows of endeavor for animal welfare
Vets can progress in their profession by attendance at post-graduate
courses. During 2001 such a course of 10 lectures will concentrate
on animal behavior. It will be run by Samantha Scott, who
qualified from Bristol University Veterinary School, and after
an internship at Glasgow Veterinary School, saw mixed practice
in Ayrshire. Her interest increased in behavior therapy and
acupuncture, and in 1993 she moved to Surrey, where she worked
at Roger Mugfords Behavior Centre before becoming a
lecturer at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities in Behavior
Therapy and Ethology. She runs a behavior clinic at Glasgow
The prospectus for her course of lectures defines the aim:
to give veterinarians a basic grounding in the fundamentals
of animal behavior so that they can work through any problem
from first principles. It is designed to cover all the veterinary
species: dogs, cats, horses, small furries, and exotics, although
the majority of the emphasis will be on cats and dogs since
they form the great case-load for most in practice.
VEGA notes that the case-load to serious animal welfarists
is at least 10 to 1 the other way round, and certainly farm
animals predominate even if poultry are excluded; and farm
livestock, like horses, manifest in stereotypy and other derangements
and self-abuse behavioral symptoms of distress.
Vets, Farmers, and the Public
We are hearing of consultancies being terminated and
retiring staff not being replaced. We have no NHS back-up,
nor for that matter government or EU subsidies. We stand alone
as small independent businesses providing, in an increasingly
competitive world that includes a seeming array of lay pregnancy
diagnosticians and scanners and foot trimmers, a private health
service to our clients and the animals under our care.
Mr Eifion Evans, president of the British Veterinary Association,
launched thus into the increasing gloom for veterinarians
in large animal practice as farmers pleaded inability to pay
the bills (Farmers Weekly, 21 July 2000).
Vets are also suffering attack for the prices they charge
on the drugs they prescribe. It was hardly surprising
that so many new graduates were retreating into small animal
practice. Gaining experience with farm animals was increasingly
difficult as workloads were reduced, and on-farm visits consisting
mainly of putting cows down under the OTMS (over 30 months
scheme) were a depressing experience for all, let alone an
idealist young vet, Mr Evans said.
Work for vets in the Meat Hygiene Service is arduous, ill-paid,
and unpopular. Mr Evans expressed concern about negative
and even adverse publicity for the profession linked to increased
involvement with abattoirs. The government required this,
and the profession did not welcome increased veterinary cover,
especially in medium to low throughput plants.
Mr Evans has protested at the fluffy image vets
are acquiring. We are in danger of becoming typecast
in the eyes of both the public and government, as entertainers
and personalities rather than as professionals getting on
with looking after peoples pets and livestock. As a
learned profession and as scientists, I would rather see us
using our media savvy to promote our expertise in animal health,
animal welfare, and public health (Veterinary Record,
7 October 2000).
Black Market Drugs
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has given vets plenty of work
in 2001 of an unpleasant kind. Even before that vets had plenty
to complain about. Mr Peter Inman, a member of the BVAs
Veterinary Policy Group and a vet practising in a rural area
of Herefordshire scenically beautiful but uneconomic
- where TB had been unknown 6 years ago but is now endemic,
spelt out some of the professions problems: practice
income was under threat. Disease testing for MAFF had declined,
although it was still a factor in some areas. Medicines sales
were an important source of practice income but were being
eroded by a black market supply to farmers. However, many
veterinary surgeons would not report illegal sales for fear
of offending clients.
Mr Jinman emphasized.phpects of animal welfare, which
would be inevitably compromised if vets were unable to get
on to farms. He felt it essential that, at the
very least, an annual visit to assess welfare on farms should
be part of the process (Veterinary Record, 22 April
Mr Roger Eddy, then junior vice-president of the Royal College
of Veterinary Surgeons, commented on the tendency towards
bigger and bigger farms, some with 5000 or more head of cattle.
Such enterprises would want discounted veterinary services,
invite tenders or perhaps employ their own veterinary staff,
he said. Mr Eddy cited estimates that sales in farm practice
of medicines contributed 60% of the turnover and 75% of the
profit. Even in small animal practice they accounted for 45%
of the turnover. He stated that prices of animal medicines
in the UK were the highest in the EU.
Animal Welfare and Subsidies
Mr Barry Johnson, senior partner in a mixed practice in Lancashire,
lamented that animal welfare had suffered badly
owing to the reduction in farm visits. The only boom
in large animal work is in casualty work, he said.
Mr Bruce Vivash Jones, chairman of the BVAs Veterinary
Policy Group, described schemes operating in other countries.
He said Swedens system was subsidized by the state;
Japan had a mutual aid system for farmers and vets; Israel
had a non-commercial scheme covering veterinary care, medicines,
and loss of animals. All of those options were unlikely in
the UK. New Zealand had a veterinary club scheme, which worked
The adverse effect on animal welfare of the downturn in livestock
work has engaged further comment. Mr Bob Young of Devon, a
past-president of the BVA, said that dairy farms were
closing every week, while subsistence farmers sold out for
the value of their property. Welfare problems are very
severe, said Mr Young, adding that vets were having
to shoot cows that should have been shot last week,
because the farmer could not pay for a cesarian operation.
Dr Sandy Clark, from the north of Scotland, said that lack
of MAFF work meant fewer farm visits, fewer calvings,
more cullings and bigger units also contributed
to a reduction in veterinary work and to poorer welfare.
Mr Richard Sibley, senior partner in a 7-vet mixed practice
in Devon, and then president of the British Cattle Veterinary
Association, has spoken on Veterinary Aspects of Farm Assurance
(Veterinary Record, 7 October 2000) and observed that the
aim in introducing a health plan was to measure health and
welfare realities. We get fed up with pressure groups telling
us that free-range is great and that high-yielding is unsustainable
and a disaster for welfare. He named among the welfare
realities the fact that 20% of heifers reared
did not reach their second lactation and that 1 in 5 cows
producing milk was lame.
Mr Sibley concluded: If producers could put on their
package this is lame-free milk rather than free-range
milk, we would be doing the cows much more good. Vets
would do much more good if they boycotted foods produced in
a slavery they condemn ineffectually. A veterinarian should
be only a misprint away from a vegetarian.
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