BVA president John Blackwell has praised Scotland for leading the way in many areas of animal welfare, but warned of challenges ahead for its government and vets.

BVA president John Blackwell

Speaking at the association’s annual Scottish dinner on May 13, Mr Blackwell 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 Scotland needed to be on its guard against non-stun slaughter and urged it stands firm on the ban on tail docking dogs.

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 four 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

Highlighting the vital role of vets, Mr Blackwell said BVA was pleased at the announcement of a review into 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,” he said.

“That is one of the reasons BVA so warmly welcomed the review that Richard Lochhead and his department are to lead. With more than 1,000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians traded every year, it is essential 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 stressed that companion animal vets would be at the “forefront of raising awareness”.  

However, he 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.  

Tail docking of dogs is one of the areas we need to be watchful. I would like to take this opportunity to remind the Cabinet Secretary both BVA and BVA Scottish Branch are against tail docking of dogs. We have carefully considered all the evidence and remain convinced 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 there were challenges, such as the lack of cull sow slaughter facilities in Scotland, and that the country needed to ensure the amount of non-stun slaughter did not rise.  

“Animal welfare means welfare throughout an animal’s entire life, whatever their relationship to humans. Scotland leads the way again with non-stun slaughter, having only a very small amount of non-stun slaughter in the poultry sector.

“It is particularly important to vets who work with livestock the animals we breed for consumption are humanely treated throughout their lives including their death.”

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