One Health and One Welfare high on the agenda

One Health and One Welfare were on top of the UEVP agenda at the Brussels General Assembly on 16 November. ‘It’s imperative to take action and make sure One Health is practically implemented,’ said Jean-Baptiste Moreau (France), presenting the 36-recommendations White Paper on One Health that a multi-stakeholder platform including scientists, veterinarians, environmentalists and farmers had prepared for French policymakers. ‘One Health and One Welfare are related,’ he added. However, ‘One Health and One Welfare are not the same,’ commented Hans Spoolder, welfare scientist at Wageningen University (Netherlands). ‘Farmers will not call you out as long as the animals are healthy.’ It is essential that health and welfare scientists work together, he stressed. He explained that the concept of welfare had moved on from the ‘five freedoms’ idea of reducing suffering to that of ‘a life worth living’. There was ample scientific evidence of an improved quality of production by better handling, he said, adding that better health welfare often started with observing the animals.

‘Vets have a lot to say on One Health’

He also announced the EU Partnership on Animal Health & Welfare, a 5-year, 120 million euro package involving 56 research organisations in 24 countries. Of the 17 listed ‘internal activities’, five had a link with animal welfare.

Pig veterinarian and UEVP board member Giovanni Guadagnini (Italy) quoted the European Food Safety Agency: ‘Animal welfare is a moral obligation, but if you eat meat, dairy or eggs it’s also a human health concern.’ He also recalled that the recent Eurobarometer survey had shown an increasing societal concern for animal welfare, in particular of food-producing animals. ‘We as vets have a lot to say on One Health, and should not shy away from it,’ stressed Hugo Fernandez, representing the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians. Vets are on the frontline for identifying emerging zoonoses, whether it was West Nile Disease, Rift valley fever, highly pathogenic avian influenza. ‘We’re in a good position to make a major impact.’

…and what about our medical colleagues?

During the ensuing debate, UK delegate Krista Arnold recalled that OH also included pets. ‘Brucella infections, puppy trade, fertility clinics – the focus should not just be on food animals.’ Many also regretted the lack of involvement of the medical profession regarding One Health. ‘When we first contacted our medical sister association [CPME] twenty years ago on the topic of antimicrobial resistance, and asked what they were doing AMR – and they couldn’t give an answer,’ FVE executive director Nancy De Briyne recalled. Since then, there have been several Memorandi of Understanding, meetings on infection control and a joint webinar on mental health. ‘They are getting there,’ she concluded, adding that a joint press release would be issued on the occasion of antimicrobial awareness week.

Communication – education – leadership

One Health was also on the agenda during the afternoon session, held jointly with the sections of veterinary hygienists (UEVH), state veterinary officers (EASVO) and vets working in research, education and industry (EVERI).

‘One Health is a veterinary construct,’ stated Jason Aldiss (UVEH). ‘The term is often misused – we should grab it and hold on to it. As vets, it’s our responsibility to advocate for the One Health approach, and explain to our medical colleagues and politicians what One Health is.’

‘Only vets have animal welfare front and centre,’ added Mark McCarthy (EASVO), but key measures and data are critical and it was important to understand the perspective of key stakeholders.

‘With a focus on education, research and industry, our section is perhaps most central to veterinary public health and One Health,’ commented Milorad Radakovic (EVERI), adding that veterinary health and welfare were also an essential part of One Health. He suggested that specific examples of the One Health role of veterinarians might improve public understanding of its importance.

‘We should start an interdisciplinary approach earlier, during our studies,’ stressed Vanda Dučić, speaking on behalf of the International Veterinary Students’ Association (IVSA). She also regretted the lack of education on environmental sciences – ‘few students are aware it is part of One Health.’

‘Communication, education and leadership’ were the key words that came up in the cloud (via Mentimeter®) when the assembly was asked to provide 1-word suggestions on how FVE and its sections could improve awareness about One Health and One Welfare. Together with the sections, the assembly went on to discuss on how to move forward and highlight the importance of One Health.

And also…

  • UEVP president Volker Moser welcomed new faces to the General Assembly, including Timo van Lil (IVSA) Hana Horakova (CZ), Ilmars Duritis (LV), Ludovic Bacusca (RO), Tomo Wankmüller (SI), Hugo Fernández (EAZVW), Peter Wijnen (PVG Europe), Krista Arnold (BSAVA), Jakovac Strajn (Slovenia) and Ervin Resuli (Albanian Order).
  • It was announced that FVE and the UEVP had decided to step down as full members of VetCEE
  • The next UEVP GA will be held in Heraklion, Greece on 13 June.