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WSPA Places Welfare at Heart of Vet Training

by 5m Editor
26 October 2011, at 8:35am

UK - World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has showcased a blueprint for vets to integrate animal welfare into the curriculum and practical training.

WSPA's message was closely linked to the global sustainability theme of the closing event of the World Veterinary Year, held in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this month, attended by some 2,000 vet professionals from more than 150 nations.

In a side-event and at the charity's conference stand, delegates heard how WSPA's education and emergency work with veterinarians shows how the profession is interlinked with the ecosystem and human and animal health in the quest for global sustainability. About one billion of the world's poorest people depend on animals for food, income, social status or cultural identification while nearly half the world's population is involved in agriculture.

In a speech, WSPA's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr David Wilkins, explained that vets are uniquely placed to improve animal health and welfare, which impact on humans and the environment but that welfare must be recognised as an academic discipline before it 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 over 20 developing countries have received training in WSPA's ACAW programme, with 215 having incorporated it into their programme for veterinary students. The tool is especially important in East Africa and is taught at many Agriculture and Livestock Training Institutes.

Dr Wilkins also showcased WSPA's Disaster Management work, which benefits the welfare of animals and community livelihoods, outlining several significant recent WSPA interventions worldwide. The vet 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 organisations in disaster relief work.

Just last year, WSPA assisted more than 150,000 animals in 19 countries, and has intervened in the aftermath of Japan's tsunami, Haiti's earthquake and Australia's floods, as well as many other disasters attracting little or no coverage in international media. WSPA is currently assisting animals in disasters across Latin America, Asia and in Africa.

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 in country and led by a professor who receives annual training with WSPA’s disaster teams and support in terms of equipment and training.

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 Red Collar campaign work. The global campaign, launched recently on World Rabies Day, aims to protect communities from both cruelty and rabies. Annually, more than 55,000 people around the world die from rabies and up to 20 million dogs are needlessly and cruelly killed, often in misguided attempts to control the disease. WSPA is calling on governments worldwide to tackle rabies through the only humane and effective solution: mass vaccination of dogs.

Ruth De Vere, Head of Education & Learning at WSPA International, commented: "Throughout World Veterinary Year in 2011, we have taken our message to veterinary events across the globe. 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."