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WSPA takes welfare message to vets from across the world

Oct 20, 2011

WSPA encourages veterinarians to teach animal welfare and consider disaster operations as part of students’ training.
Last week in Cape Town, WSPA delivered its message at the closing event of the World Veterinary Year, attended by more than 2,000 vet professionals from more than 150 nations.

Our education and emergency work was integral to the theme of the 5-day event, which focused on linking the role of the vet profession to the ecosystem, human and animal health in the quest for global sustainability.

In a presentation to delegates, WSPA’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. David Wilkins emphasized this relationship, stating that approximately 1 billion of the world’s poorest people depend on animals for food, income, social status or cultural identification. Moreover, nearly half the world’s population is involved in agriculture.

Welfare begins in the classroom

Dr. Wilkins explained that vets are uniquely placed to improve animal health and welfare (which impact humans and the environment) but that welfare must be recognized as an academic discipline before it can become integral to the veterinary profession, globally. To this end, WSPA designed its Concepts in Animal Welfare (CAW) teaching tool, with modules specially designed for vet and animal health students. To date, some 296 veterinary faculties in more than 20 developing countries have received training in WSPA’s education program, with 215 having incorporated it into their program for veterinary students. The tool is especially important in East Africa and is taught at many Agriculture and Livestock Training Institutes.

Vet students vital in disasters

Wilkins also showcased WSPA’s Disaster Management work, which benefits the welfare of animals and community livelihoods, outlining several significant recent WSPA interventions worldwide. He described how, since 2005, WSPA has recruited and trained teams of veterinarians from around the world to respond effectively to disasters to meet the current gap in Animal Welfare provision during emergencies. The model for these teams is the same as that used by humanitarian organizations in disaster relief work.

Another essential element in WSPA’s capacity to respond to disasters are trainee vets working in teams, coordinated (though not directly employed) by WSPA. These Veterinary Emergency Response Units (VERUs) are made up of volunteer students based in a veterinary faculty and led by a professor, who receives annual training with WSPA’s disaster teams and support in terms of equipment and training.

For further information and regular updates on WSPA’s disaster work, visit our Animals in Disasters blog.

The vet – a multi-function profession

Over the last two years, VERUs have been established in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, India, Thailand, Kenya and Myanmar, and have all been active in responding to disasters requiring animal assistance. The work of these teams is integrated into their country’s national emergency management infrastructure.

Vets are also playing a significant role in vaccinating dogs in WSPA’s Collars Not Cruelty campaign work.

"Throughout World Veterinary Year in 2011, we have taken our message to veterinary events across the globe," says Ruth De Vere, Head of Education & Learning at WSPA International. "Vets play a fundamental role in improving, enhancing and ensuring animal welfare. Through their direct interventions with animals affected by disasters and disease outbreaks, and their indirect impact as advisors on effective standards and practice, the veterinary community will be at the heart of efforts to improve animal welfare across the globe. Effectively educating the next generation of veterinary practitioners is key to achieving this success."

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