The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called for financial support from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Animal Health and Welfare NI at its annual Northern Ireland dinner.
The dinner was hosted by Oliver McMullan and attended by parliamentarians, key representatives of animal health and welfare organisations and the agri-food industry, as well as senior members of the veterinary profession.
BVA president Peter Jones also used the opportunity to call for more government action to promote the new welfare codes for companion and large animals under the Welfare of Animals Act to the public.
Mr Jones said: “It’s no secret that disease eradication is a long hard slog and it takes enormous commitment from industry, government and the veterinary profession.
“In September we warmly welcomed the formation of Animal Health and Welfare NI and praised industry for taking the lead in this initiative to deal systematically with production animal diseases.
“We were pleased to note the Minister’s strong support for the initiative when it was launched and we hope that the financial and legal support it needs from the Department will soon be forthcoming.
“The recent emergence of Schmallenberg virus in northern Europe – and Bluetongue before it – is a perfect illustration of the need for robust surveillance systems, excellent research facilities, and an understanding of the risks involved in sourcing animals,” he added.
On the welfare codes under the Welfare of Animals Act, Mr Jones said: “The five welfare needs enshrined in the Act, and explained through the codes, are vitally important for every animal keeper’s understanding of how to provide the right level of care. But there is a significant challenge in educating the animal-owning public.
“A recent report by the PDSA revealed that only one in three pet owners in the UK are familiar with the Welfare of Animals Act (and its equivalents in Great Britain). That should be of real concern to us all.
“The content of the welfare codes needs to reach the general public if it is to have any real impact. We were therefore disappointed to note that there has been very little fanfare in terms of launching the codes and we would urge the Department to think again about how to publicise the important messages contained in them.”