SCOTLAND‘S government, farming industry and scientists will work together to drive up the standards of animal health and welfare, according to Scotland‘s rural development minister, Ross Finnie.

Launching the GB Animal Health and Welfare strategy at the Royal Highland Show on Thursday (Jun 24), Mr Finnie said that flexibility in the strategy allowed Scotland to address its own animal health and welfare priorities.

Keeping disease out of Scotland and rapidly controlling the spread of any disease in the country were the keys, he said.

“Scotland needs a profitable, market-focused farming industry, based on quality, enhanced through improved animal health and welfare standards,” he said.

“The strategy defines our vision to make Scotland‘s livestock industry more resilient by reducing the threat and mitigating the costs of disease outbreaks and better positioning the industry to meet consumer demand for humanely reared livestock.”

The strategy would be based on partnership between science and industry as well as government, he insisted.

“While responsibility for delivery rests with animal keepers, government can define common objectives and ensure best practice is pooled,” he said.

With two leading vet schools and research institutes, such as the Moredun, Scotland punched well above its weight internationally in animal science, said Mr Finnie.

“In delivering this strategy we will be heavily reliant on this excellent science base.”

Scotland also enjoyed an international reputation as a quality producer, said Mr Finnie. 

“I want to ensure we build on the links between animal health and welfare status and quality certification.

“Driving up standards of animal health and welfare will contribute further to enhancing Scotland‘s enviable reputation as a quality producer,” he said.

Mr Finnie admitted that there was still some way to go to convince farmers to take biosecurity seriously.

And animal health plans, devised by vets and farmers in partnership, would become increasingly important.

Ongoing research by the Scottish Executive would hopefully convince farmers of the financial benefit, through reduced vets bills, of putting health plans in place, he added.

There was also a clear issue of trying to link animal health with quality assurance standards, Mr Finnie said.

Failure to adhere to standards could then result in farmers finding themselves without a market, he added.

*For more on farming in Scotland see FARMERS WEEKLY‘S Scotland Focus in the issue out on Friday (Jun 25).