Vets concerned by animal health plans

Veterinary experts are disappointed that the government remains committed to separating its animal health and welfare policies.

The British Veterinary Association described the government’s draft Animal Health Bill as a mixed bag.

Published on Monday (25 January), the Bill will establish a body with responsibility for animal health policy and delivery in England.

It will create a role of England chief veterinary officer and take on a coordinating role in a disease outbreak situation.

The Bill also widens powers in England and Wales to collect and test veterinary samples to aid surveillance and to vaccinate animals.

A separate finance Bill will be required to establish funding arrangements.

BVA president Bill Reilly said the government had listened to veterinary concerns on some aspects of the new arrangements.

But he added: “We are deeply disappointed that DEFRA remains committed to splitting animal health policy and animal welfare policy.

“Along with many other organisations, the BVA has consistently argued that health and welfare are inextricably linked.

“We need to be convinced that lines of communication under the new proposals are such that welfare is not sidelined or compromised.

“We have not yet received those assurances and will continue to lobby for welfare to be embedded in health policy.”

But Prof Reilly described a proposed UK chief veterinary officer role, distinct from the new post of England CVO, as a real success for the veterinary profession.

The UK CVO will report directly to ministers.

Professor Reilly said this would ensure the veterinary voice remained at the centre of decision-making during disease outbreaks.

The BVA also welcomed any measures to encourage livestock producers to follow good practice, as well as opportunities in the Bill for increased surveillance.

“We agree that all species should be included in the AHO, but until the separate finance bill is published we do not know how funds will be raised.”