The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has showcased a blueprint for vets it hopes will integrate animal welfare into the curricula and practical training.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has showcased a blueprint for vets it hopes will integrate animal welfare into the curricula and practical training.

Cape Town hosted the final event of World Veterinary YearWSPA’s message was closely linked to the global sustainability theme of the closing event of World Veterinary Year, held in Cape Town (pictured) earlier this month and attended by 2,000 veterinary professionals from around the world.

In a side event at the charity’s conference stand, delegates heard how WSPA’s education and emergency work with veterinarians showed how the profession was interlinked with the ecosystem and human and animal health in the quest for global sustainability.

About a billion of the world’s poorest people are said to depend on animals for food, income, social status or cultural identification, while nearly half the world’s population was involved in agriculture.

In a speech, WSPA’s chief veterinary officer David Wilkins explained vets were uniquely placed to improve animal health and welfare, which impact on humans and the environment, but he added welfare must be recognised as an academic discipline before it integral to the veterinary profession globally.

WSPA has designed its Concepts in Animal Welfare (CAW) teaching tool, with modules designed for veterinary and animal health students. To date, some 296 veterinary faculties in more than 20 developing countries have received training in WSPA’s ACAW programme, with 215 having incorporated it into their programmes for veterinary students.

Dr Wilkins also showcased WSPA’s disaster management work, which benefits the welfare of animals and community livelihoods, outlining several significant WSPA interventions worldwide. Since 2005, WSPA has recruited and trained teams of veterinarians from around the world to respond effectively to disasters to meet the current gap in animal welfare provision during emergencies. The model for these teams is the same as that used by humanitarian organisations in disaster relief work.

Just last year, WSPA assisted more than 150,000 animals in 19 countries, and has intervened in the aftermath of Japan’s tsunami, Haiti’s earthquake and Australia’s floods, as well as many other disasters.

Another essential element in WSPA’s capacity to respond to disasters are trainee vets working in teams, co-ordinated, though not directly employed, by WSPA. The Veterinary Emergency Response Units (VERUs) are made up of volunteer students in a veterinary faculty in a country. VERUs have been established in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, India, Thailand, Kenya and Myanmar in the past few years.

“Throughout World Veterinary Year in 2011, we have taken our message to veterinary events across the globe,” said Ruth De Vere, head of education and learning at WSPA International.

“Vets play a fundamental role in improving, enhancing and ensuring animal welfare. Through their direct interventions with animals affected by disasters and disease outbreaks, and their indirect impact as advisors on effective standards and practice, the veterinary community will be at the heart of efforts to improve animal welfare across the globe. Effectively educating the next generation of veterinary practitioners is key to achieving this success.”

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