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Maintain Investment in Northern Ireland’s World-class Veterinary Science Research Urges BV

24 October 2014

UK - Northern Ireland’s excellence in research and development (R&D) must be maintained through continued investment, British Veterinary Association (BVA) President John Blackwell has said in his speech to guests at BVA’s annual dinner at Stormont.

Mr Blackwell highlighted the global impact of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute’s (AFBI) work, especially in the aquaculture industry and international trade in pig products.

He said: “Continued investment in AFBI – and I would highlight in particular its Veterinary Sciences Division – is critical in order to maintain sufficient levels of disease surveillance and investigation. Such work guarantees preparedness for an outbreak of epizootic/transboundary disease – just as AFBI was able to provide in relation to influenza, Bluetongue and Schmallenberg in recent years.”

DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill responded as a guest speaker to Mr Blackwell’s speech. Also present was Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey.

Guests at the dinner, hosted by John McCallister MLA, included parliamentarians, key representatives of animal health and welfare organisations and the agri-food industry, media, and senior members of the veterinary profession.

Emphasising the role vets play in responsible pet ownership, Mr Blackwell noted that Northern Ireland’s foresight in the early introduction of mirochipping for dogs had seen numbers falling from one stray for every 184 people in 2011 to one stray for every 311 people in 2014 according to figures from the Dogs Trust.

Mr Blackwell went on to comment on veterinary education in Northern Ireland: “As we know, the University of Ulster is exploring the possibilities of delivering veterinary science courses and there may be sound economic reasons to develop veterinary education in Northern Ireland…And we can of course see the attraction for local school leavers to be able to attend a home university.

“But we need to get this right from the start. If we don’t, there is potential for too many vets and not enough jobs, with downward pressure on salaries and employment conditions.”

Other topics covered in the speech included: horse welfare in relation to the lack of abattoirs to slaughter horses in Northern Ireland; bovine tuberculosis, including the TB Strategy Group and TVR programme; antimicrobial resistance and European Antibiotics Awareness Day; work to raise public awareness of toxocara; the AWF/RSPCA puppy contract; vet wellbeing; future of the veterinary profession.

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