BVA president Carl Padgett has claimed there is an economic case for Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to make vets an integral part of Northern Ireland’s agri-food strategy.
BVA president Carl Padgett has claimed there is an economic case for Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to make vets an integral part of Northern Ireland’s agri-food strategy.
Mr Padgett offered his opinions while speaking at the BVA North of Ireland Dinner last night (November 10, 2011).
Mr Padgett said: “Here in Northern Ireland there is a great network of rural and urban practices available to meet the needs of animal keepers and the executive, but my message to DARD is ‘use them or lose them’.
“Vets in practice have the willingness and, most importantly, the expertise to deliver on TB, brucellosis and a whole host of other production animal diseases and they must be an integral part of that strategy.”
On endemic disease, Mr Padgett said that a healthy future for food producing animals means tackling endemic disease head on, and said BVA wanted to see clear strategies for BVD, Johne’s disease, IBR, and other production diseases.
He said: “There is appetite from industry and there is a clear economic case for action. Yes, it will require investment and ultimately it may require legislation, but what it really requires is all of us working together to come up with the best mechanism for delivery.
On the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland), he said the BVA was pleased to see DARD “racing out of the starting blocks” with consultations on a number of initiatives under the act, including the hot branding of equids and the regulation of dog breeding establishments.
Finally, he raised the financial situation of veterinary students from Northern Ireland.
He said: “The BVA and NIVA have raised concerns directly with the agriculture and education ministers and other MLAs over the unique and difficult financial situation faced by veterinary students on a 5- or 6-year course with annual fees of £9,000 and little or no opportunity to take paid employment in the holidays, due to the demands of compulsory extra mural studies.
“With no veterinary schools in Northern Ireland, and only a limited number of places in Dublin, prospective veterinary students are immediately at a disadvantage compared to students studying other courses at home who will have their tuition fees subsidised by the executive.
“In the future we could see UK veterinary graduates returning to Northern Ireland saddled with up to £54,000 in tuition fee debt and many thousands more in living cost debt. Our fear is that, understandably, those graduates will be attracted to small animal practice over the less lucrative areas of large animal work and research.
“They may seem unconnected, but the future ability of Northern Ireland to deliver safe and healthy food may well be affected by the affordability of a veterinary degree. Some imaginative thinking is now required to find the right solution,” he concluded.