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Veterinary Development Council looks to the future


The inaugural meeting of the Veterinary Development Council (VDC) heard perspectives on the role of the veterinary profession in food animal production and the wider food supply chain from industry, government and private veterinary practice yesterday (Tuesday 25th January).

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) convened the VDC under the independent chairmanship of Professor Richard Bennett, Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Reading, following a key recommendation in Professor Philip Lowes report Unlocking Potential: A report on veterinary expertise in food animal production.

The first meeting was designed to bring together representatives from across the food supply chain to contribute to a wide-ranging discussion on the current and future roles of veterinary surgeons.

Speakers included: UK/Defra Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens; Animal Health Chief Executive Catherine Brown; Catherine McLaughlin, NFU; Heather Jenkins, Waitrose; Prof Sandy Trees, University of Liverpool and Senior Vice President, RCVS; Liz Redmond, Food Standards Agency; and David Catlow, practising veterinary surgeon and former president of the BVA.

Around fifty attendees included representatives from the veterinary profession, veterinary education, government and its agencies, and the livestock and food industries.

Some of the major themes of the discussion were:

–          the need for veterinary practices to provide what the customer wants and develop business models to do that;

–          the factors affecting the livestock and food industries;

–          pressure on and from the government to reduce costs and increase added value;

–          what farmers and the food industry want from vets and the need for more dialogue between them;

–          the changing nature of veterinary practice and the changing demographic of veterinary graduates;

–          the understanding of the veterinary role in food production and supply chain amongst veterinary students and the prominence of food animal production in the veterinary curriculum;

–          the role of para-professionals and technicians within the veterinary team; and

–          opportunities for the veterinary profession to engage with the food industry throughout the food supply chain.

Following the meeting a core group of representatives met to discuss the next steps for the VDC.

Commenting after the event, Professor Bennett said:

When I agreed to take on the chairmanship of the Veterinary Development Council I set out a goal of defining the market for farm animal veterinary services through consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

I am delighted that so many of those stakeholders from industry and government have contributed to the first meeting and the discussions have already highlighted a number of important elements for the VDC to take forward.

It is clear that veterinary surgeons play a vital role in the food supply chain and the VDC will now look at ways to secure the future of veterinary service in food production that meets the needs of the customers. We will do this by providing a facilitation role and working closely together with stakeholders. 

Harvey Locke, President of the BVA, added:

The first meeting of the VDC has brought the profession, industry and government together for the first time to look in detail at the demand for and the delivery of food animal veterinary services in the future.

We are grateful to all those who attended and contributed openly to the wide-ranging discussion. Over the next 12 months a core group of stakeholders will take forward the results of todays meeting.

Professor Lowes report Unlocking Potential: A report on veterinary expertise in food animal production is available at and the BVAs response to it is available at

The BVA announced the formation and chairmanship of the Veterinary Development Council on 22 September 2010

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