Veterinary service under pressure, warns NFU

UK - The NFU has told MPs that the erosion of resources to the State Veterinary Service (SVS) has led to “gaping holes“ in the defence against animal disease.
calendar icon 12 May 2003
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Action is also needed to staunch the flow of vets away from private large animal practices into pet care as a result of the farming crisis.

NFU Deputy President Tim Bennett today outlined farmers’ concerns to the Commons’ EFRA Select Committee inquiry into vets and veterinary services.

He said the running down of the SVS by government has left the country vulnerable to disease and rendered the service unable to proactively challenge disease risk

“Foot and Mouth disease in particular highlighted the enormity of the problems posed by an outbreak of epidemic disease and the extent of the resources needed to deal with it.

“The FMD inquiries had much to recommend, not the least the provision of adequate resources to recognise and deal with a significant threat before it materialises.“

He added that the increase in the number of TB cases is further evidence of the service being “already overwhelmed“.

NFU Animal Health Chairman Neil Cutler and Veterinary and Public Health Advisor Peter Rudman joined Mr Bennett to give evidence.

Mr Cutler, a Hampshire dairy farmer, stressed the importance of the SVS retaining overall responsibility for disease control and for it to be sufficiently resourced.

He said: “We believe that the SVS is already understaffed for the routine tasks it has to perform.

“Both the SVS and private vets will have a vital role in the development and delivery of Defra’s proposed Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. This strategy can only succeed with a “joined up“ and integrated approach to animal health by the whole veterinary profession in concert with farmers.“

The NFU is assisting in a review of the Local Veterinary Inspector (LVI) system and supports the idea of providing a private sector reserve of vets that could be mobilised to assist the SVS in the event of a crisis.

Tim Bennett said as part of the drive to improve biosecurity and establish on-farm health plans it was vital farmers have access to expert advice.

He told MPs: “The use of animal medicines on farm has changed over the years, in part due to an increased focus on costs but also due to the work of industry groups like the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance. This continuing work, however, relies on farmers being able to get expert advice.

“Staffing levels in the SVS and the availability of farm animal vets, and their relationship with livestock farmers, are two key issues that will need to be addressed if the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy is to progress beyond the vision that Defra has proposed.“

Source: National Farmers Union - 12th May 2003

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