Making animals matter: 2011 is World Veterinary Year

WSPA vet Dr Sergio Vásquez in a temporary shelter with dogs affected by the devastating floods in Brazil.

WSPA vet Dr Sergio Vásquez in a temporary shelter with dogs affected by the devastating floods in Brazil.

World Vet Year 2011 provides a unique opportunity to boost the profile of vets, and of animal welfare around the world.

The world’s first veterinary school was founded in Lyon, France, in 1761, shortly followed by the Alfort veterinary school, near Paris, in 1764, both of them at the initiative of French veterinarian Claude Bourgelat. This means that 2011 will mark the 250th world anniversary of veterinary education, and has been designated the World Veterinary Year.

Throughout the year, animal welfare experts will meet at conferences and symposia and specially commissioned TV programmes will highlight the role of veterinary science in reducing global hunger, controlling disease, monitoring food quality, and crucially, promoting animal welfare.

Vets and WSPA

Animal welfare is fundamental to the veterinary profession. WSPA’s education programme in animal welfare, developed over several years, is currently used by veterinary and animal science students around the world. Our Veterinary Emergency Response Units (VERUs), based in university veterinary faculties, train vet students to respond to disasters and provide the equipment and systems they need.

WSPA has produced a booklet to champion the concept of animal welfare in veterinary work, Vet Files WSPA’s vets: leading the way in animal welfare.

In fact, we employ 24 vets of our own. They contribute to our research, campaigns and education programmes and help co-ordinate our disaster response work.

Animal welfare - beyond animal health

Member Society PWLS' head vet Dr Yousef treats a donkey in Palestine.

Member Society PWLS' head vet Dr Yousef treats a donkey in Palestine.


At the fifth Pan Commonwealth Veterinary Conference in Ghana held from 21 to 25 March,  WSPA was represented by three staff members who reinforced the importance of integrating animal welfare into veterinary work. This signalled the beginning of WSPA’s large-scale engagement in Vet Year 2011.

Throughout 2011, WSPA staff from all over the globe will be involved in conferences and events to engage the veterinary world and its future employees in our argument that animal welfare matters, and consists of far more than merely ensuring the physical health of an animal.

Mike Baker, CEO at WSPA International, Natasha Lee, Veterinary Programmes Manager at WSPA Asia and Suzanne Rogers, Technical Advisor for Working Equines and Human Behaviour Change at WSPA International attended the conference in the African nation’s capital, Accra. There, they discussed animal welfare with a host of high-profile attendees from the Commonwealth’s veterinary communities and raised the profile of the campaign for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW).

WSPA also sponsored a workshop on animal welfare that was part of the conference. This provided a valuable opportunity to highlight the important role that veterinarians have all over the world in improving animal welfare as well as health. The event addressed the development of a much-needed strategy for animal welfare for key animal stakeholders in Africa such as The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

“The conference highlighted the important links between human health, animal welfare and the environment, emphasising the vital role of veterinarians in working in partnership with other organisations to tackle the all issues involved together" said Suzanne Rogers. “I represented WSPA at the session on working animals in which delegates from all over the world shared their knowledge and experience and considered the best way forward to develop policies and standards to protect these hard-working animals, upon which so many people depend. Many delegates were keen to talk to us to hear about the work WSPA and our partners are doing and the developments we’re seeing – whether through our work to improve farm animal welfare, to end the inhumane culling of dogs and cats, or in disaster management.”

The next major event in the calendar of Vet Year is the World Conference on Veterinary Education, to be held in the French city of Lyon on 13 May, where we will be promoting the necessity of integrating animal welfare into veterinary work,.

Read more about World Vet Year on the official website here.

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