More vets – for the good of us all
As we approach World Veterinary Day, director of EMEA government affairs Olivier Espeisse looks at why we need more of these professionals – for the benefit of both animals and people.

Building Veterinary capacity has become a priority for the animal health industry in recent years. But what does it mean?

Put simply, it’s about ensuring we have enough veterinary professionals – trained to an appropriate level – to protect the health of a growing animal population. And by extension, the health of a growing population of people who depend upon them.

In my time working in animal health, I’ve seen the importance of investing in veterinary infrastructure and oversight first-hand. I recently had the opportunity to participate at an event at the International Veterinary School in Dakar, and it was apparent in the nationalities of the students attending that many countries in the Sahel have given up on training vets altogether.

This is a great shame when communities in this turbulent region of Africa so badly need the help and stability a network of veterinary care can provide. As a point of contrast within the same continent, the government of Morocco made a concerted effort some 15 years ago to dramatically increase the quality and number of vets in the country.

Around one hundred vets were hired to reinforce veterinary services. And this investment paid economic, health and welfare dividends when Foot and Mouth disease – a dreadful disease affecting mammals like sheep, goats and pigs[1] – began to spread across the African continent.

Morocco’s increased ‘veterinary capacity’ brought with it greater disease control and enforcement, which meant Foot and Mouth more or less stopped at the country’s border, saving vulnerable communities and their animals the immense cost of an epidemic. These contrasting experiences highlight just how dependent every single one of us is on dedicated, trained veterinary professionals for a safe food supply, healthy livelihoods and protection from disease.

The ‘One Health’ approach has long understood that the health of people, animals and our planet is inextricably linked, and we must recognise and appreciate that vets are a vital piece of this complex puzzle.

Let’s look at antimicrobial resistance (or AMR) – which is the theme of this year’s celebration of the World Veterinary Day. In order for antibiotics to be used responsibly, we are entirely reliant on the judgment of trained veterinary professionals throughout the world to strike that careful balance between treating an animal today and preserving these tools for the future benefit of human and animal populations.

In short, vets should be our gatekeepers. And in those parts of the world in which they don’t exist (along with regulation of antibiotics), we are exposed. How we introduce this veterinary and regulatory oversight sensitively – without depriving farmers of the tools they need to treat their animals – is a huge challenge.

It’s for all these reasons that we made a commitment at our recent summit on One Health[2] to help build veterinary capacity. Our vision is to expand the workforce and oversight of farming by veterinarians (and a growing cast of paraprofessionals).

We need to build training – not just through resources, but through global education programmes – and to give this new generation of veterinary professionals the skills they need to make responsible decisions.

Only by building more veterinary capacity and nurturing this new generation can we secure the health of our animals and ourselves.

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