In April 1863, Professor John Gamgee initiated a meeting of veterinarians and professors of veterinary medicine from all over Europe. This conference attracted 103 veterinary professionals from 10 countries. Professor Gamgee initiated this meeting to discuss ways to fight epizootic disease (outbreaks of animal disease) and establish rules for importing/exporting cattle. This marked the first meeting of the International Veterinary Congress, which later became The World Veterinary Association (WVA).
Much has changed over the years.
Today, the WVA represents over 500,000 veterinarians globally and holds meetings to exchange ideas, share experiences, and promote and develop veterinary medicine. The mission of WVA is “To assure and promote animal health and welfare and public health globally, through developing and advancing veterinary medicine, the veterinary profession as well as public and private veterinary services.”
When you hear the word “veterinarian,” you may think only of the veterinarians that you see at your veterinary clinic, and may think that the work they do is limited to caring for community pets. This is not the case. They also are likely engaged in the global veterinary community by being a member of a national or international association under the WVA. Also, there are veterinarians whose primary role is in public health. They design and administer animal and public health programs for the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases (those diseases that are transmissible between animals and people). Other veterinarians work in agriculture, medicine, or the environment.
Food security, food safety, animal welfare, and disease prevention (human and animal) are a global concern with a global economy. As can be seen with the current COVID-19 crisis, the importance of collaboration and strong partnerships between international organizations such as the World Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, Health for Animals, and the World Veterinary Association is evident.
This year, World Veterinary Day falls on April 25th and the theme is: “Environmental protection for improving animal and human health”. With Earth Day celebrated just yesterday, environmental protection is already front of mind.
Environmental protection is essential to improve and protect animal and human health. The health of the global environment is linked to human health and animal health. The World Veterinary Association holds that “Veterinarians, in their role as advocates for animal health and welfare, have a responsibility as well as the opportunity to safeguard our environment for future generations. Their actions can help mitigate the effects of climate change, ensure proper disposal of medicines, and support responsible use of natural resources (e.g. water and feed) necessary in raising livestock.”
The importance of veterinarians in disease surveillance programs is vital to the health of all living beings on the globe. Now, more than ever, we can clearly see the important role that veterinarians have around the world.