BVA president Robin Hargreaves addressed the big issues currently facing the profession at the association’s annual Scottish dinner.
Hosted by John Scott MSP in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Hargreaves posed questions at the dinner about the future of the veterinary profession in an independent Scotland.
In a keynote speech, Mr Hargreaves also promoted the BVA’s campaign to end non-stun slaughter, raised questions about veterinary surveillance and underlined BVA’s support for compulsory microchipping of dogs.
Guests, including MSPs and MEPs, key representatives of animal health and welfare organisations and the agri-food industry, and senior members of the veterinary profession, were also addressed by Christine Grahame MSP, chairman of the Parliament’s cross-party group on animal welfare.
The dinner took place as the cross-party group hosts a week-long exhibition in Parliament for Celebrating Scotland’s Animals Week.
Speaking on Scottish independence, Mr Hargreaves said: “As a non-partisan organisation BVA has not taken a position on Scottish independence, but we have tried to provide a forum for informed debate to take place among our members and we’ve asked questions of Scottish Government and the RCVS.”
“It is clear there has been a degree of frustration from some members who are looking for clearer answers about the future regulation of our profession in an independent Scotland.
“We are a small profession, but one I hope you will agree is vitally important to Scotland’s livestock business and to the health and well-being of the nation’s pets.
“We have questions around the impact on veterinary regulation, on funding for Scotland’s network of world class research institutes and the potential for duplication, on funding for places at Scotland’s two excellent veterinary schools, and on veterinary surveillance.”
In promoting the BVA’s campaign on non-stun slaughter, Mr Hargreaves acknowledged the support the e-petition had already received.
“We understand very little non-stun slaughter takes place in Scotland – a small amount of non-stun poultry slaughter – but we don’t know how much non-stun slaughter produce is on Scottish supermarket shelves or sold in food outlets.
“Two weeks ago we launched our e-petition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter and, at the very least, a debate about ways to reduce the harm caused by non-stun slaughter.
“We have been overwhelmed with support from consumers who want to improve animal welfare at the time of death.”
On veterinary surveillance, Mr Hargreaves said it must be recognised Great Britain is a single epidemiological unit and disease knows no political boundaries.
“In recent years the detection of Schmallenberg virus and the identification of bleeding calf syndrome, and in recent months the discovery of psoroptic mange in cattle for the first time in 30 years, have all served as timely and stark reminders that we reduce our surveillance capacity at our peril.
“Robust veterinary surveillance is essential if Scotland is to maintain its worldwide reputation for excellence in food.”
Mr Hargreaves also touched on recent developments in the debate about compulsory muzzling.
“We were also pleased to hear the environment minister’s comments in a recent debate recognising widespread muzzling is not necessarily a proportionate step,” he said.
“We have expressed serious reservations that compulsory muzzling of dogs would have a hugely detrimental effect on the animal’s ability to exhibit normal behaviour.”