BVA president Bill Reilly has warned vets and politicians in Northern Ireland to prepare for the advent of responsibility and cost sharing (RCS) in the region.

Giving the first of his annual dinner speeches at Stormont, before an audience including Michelle Gildernew, Northern Ireland’s minister for agriculture and rural development and MEP Jim Nicholson, Professor Reilly covered topics including devolution, animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, and England’s RCS proposals.

Bill ReillyAfter reviewing the CVO debate at this year’s BVA congress and devolved approaches to tackling bovine tuberculosis, Prof Reilly turned to RCS. He reiterated BVA’s “deep concerns” over the English proposals and said he was “under no illusions about the uphill struggle” he faces while sitting on the Government’s RCS advisory group.

He said: “You will be aware that farmers in England do not readily accept the Government’s arguments for the proposal, but I believe that in the current financial climate ongoing discussion and dialogue is needed if we are to maintain the protection that the industry, and indeed the economy, needs from outbreaks of epizootic disease.

“These are all issues that the devolved nations will face in time as each country considers how it will take RCS forward so I urge you to start thinking about it sooner rather than later and to learn from what’s happening in England.”

EU proposals on how RCS should be implemented in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are expected to be announced in 2011.

Prof Reilly welcomed Northern Ireland’s Diseases on Animals Bill, which aims to increase on-farm biosecurity, as well as Mrs Gildernew’s proposed Animal Welfare Bill, which would update Northern Ireland’s existing Welfare of Animals Act.

“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to bring forward new animal welfare legislation by June 2010,” he said.

“To my veterinary colleagues I’d say: if this is not already on your radars, it should be.”

However, he went on to ask Mrs Gildernew to steer dangerous dogs legislation away from banning specific breeds.

“I urge the minister to rethink her position on this issue and shift the focus of control to ‘deed not breed’, alongside a concerted campaign to promote responsible pet ownership,” Prof Reilly said.

He finished by referencing the Lowe Report into veterinary provision and encouraged the assembled delegates to appreciate the value offered by the veterinary profession.

He said: “Over the years vets have adapted to many changes and the profession has never shied away from challenges. We are both a knowledgeable resource and good value for money and I would urge all governments to see us in that light and not just a provider of TB services.”

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