The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed comments made by the secretary of state at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Mr Blackwell said the role of vets goes “far beyond perfunctory testing” in TB.

Liz Truss – speaking at the event yesterday (January 7) – discussed the progress and challenges in farming, and said one of the latter was animal disease.

“I know how devastating the impact of foot and mouth was when it struck in 2001 – as was BSE in the 1980s and 90s,” she said. “That is why protecting our country from animal and plant disease is a top priority for me.

“Although the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has had to implement savings, as many areas of Government have due to the terrible financial situation we have found the country in, I have been very clear that the number of front line vets must be protected.

“Since 2010 we have maintained the number of vets in our organisation and we’ve also expanded investigatory capacity. We have also appointed a chief plant health officer for the first time and in December, the position of chief vet was promoted to director general level to reflect its importance.”

Continuing, Ms Truss said she was “determined” the Animal and Plant Health Agency would maintain its “world-class disease science capability”.

Welcoming the comments, BVA president John Blackwell said the association was “pleased” Ms Truss “emphasised the critical role vets have in the agricultural economy of the UK”, as well as stating her “commitment to front line vets”.

However, Mr Blackwell urged Defra to ensure such commitment had enough capability to work.

“When the BVA met recently with Elizabeth Truss, her commitment to the role of the veterinary surgeon was clear,” he said.

“We do, however, urge this commitment is backed by adequate resource to ensure vets’ critical work in animal disease prevention, detection and monitoring is in no way undermined and that surveillance systems remain fit-for-purpose following laboratory closures in 2014.

“The BVA is committed to working with the Government to ensure Britain retains its world-class veterinary and agriculture sectors – a partnership in which the relationship between local vets on the ground, in the front line of disease prevention, and farmers is paramount.”

A critical example, he said, was tuberculosis testing in cattle, “where the role of local vets goes far beyond perfunctory testing and delivers a comprehensive approach to farmers and their herds in disease prevention and detection”.

“As vets throughout the UK wait to hear the detail of how they will engage with delivery partners recently awarded contracts for TB testing, the BVA hopes the critical role of local vets on the front line will continue sustainably.”

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