The new British Veterinary Association (BVA) position on UK sustainable animal agriculture highlights the central role of vets in animal agriculture and provides an action plan for on-farm vets.

In its latest 'Voice of the Veterinary Profession' survey, 89% of vets said they would like to play a more active role in this area.

The association's new position recognises that farming animals can result in significant environmental challenges and recommends changes to livestock systems to reduce their impact on the environment.

The BVA suggested vets could advise on and influence sustainable husbandry practices and management systems with a view to protecting and conserving natural resources, wild species and biodiversity.

However, the BVA stressed that any changes, new technologies or innovative methods used to achieve better sustainability must not compromise animal health or welfare.

It stated that in order to be considered sustainable, agricultural systems must provide for the five animal welfare needs.

Action plan

As part of its new action plan, the BVA set out several specific ways in which vets can contribute to sustainable livestock farming practices.

It recommends vets help farmers create plans to help control disease and increase efficiency and welfare on-farm.

It also suggests vets help farms to use tools to monitor and help reduce the use of antibiotics and promote higher welfare systems where applicable.

BVA president Simon Doherty said: “Vets are an integral part of the agriculture and food sector, providing preventive healthcare and treatment for livestock, carrying out disease surveillance, promoting good biodiversity and high animal welfare standards.

They are well placed to advise on sustainable systems and husbandry practice and collaborate with their colleagues in the agricultural industry to work towards a more sustainable future for farming.

“In its Animal Welfare Strategy, BVA committed to developing a position on sustainable animal agriculture, and we believe that the profession has a key role to play in ensuring that the highest standards of animal health and welfare are maintained and respected as part of the agenda.”