Promoting veterinary engagement with the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture
Vet Sustain is a recently formed community of UK-based veterinarians, seeking to champion sustainability in the veterinary profession. Our work is framed by six interconnected Goals: diverse and abundant wildlife; a good life for animals; net zero warming; health and happiness; a no waste society; and enough clean water for all. Our session will aim to illustrate how we are supporting and empowering the veterinary community to work with the farming community in the broadest sense, to drive effective change to more sustainable food production practices.
We discussed the context to Vet Sustain’s aims and objectives at a top-line level (Simon), explore how and why veterinarians can contribute to transitions to regenerative livestock practices on farm (Alex), and described projects we are undertaking at a more local level in the north of England (Rob).
We are engaging within our own profession to share knowledge on the principles of regenerative agriculture – while ensuring that we minimise barriers to uptake. We recognise that farm animal veterinary practice will need to evolve and transition, in a similar way to farm and land management practices themselves. It is vital that farmers and the veterinary profession work together on these transitions to safeguard animal health and welfare, while regenerating ecosystem functionality.
- Confirmation that the veterinary profession acknowledges the great work that farmers are doing to regenerate their landscapes, and that the profession is actively working to engage closely with, and support the farming community in these transitions.
- Points of veterinary contact for the farming community in the broadest sense, to create constructive and supportive dialogue
Simon Doherty, a past president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), holds a senior position at the Institute of Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast. He was previously the Animal Sciences & Aquaculture Specialist for HM Government’s Department for International Trade and was appointed as a GlobalScot by the Office of the First Minister of Scotland in 2018. He has two decades of experience in veterinary practice, industry and academia, is a Certified Aquaculture Veterinarian and a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Simon is BVA representative to the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and chairs the FVE Food Safety & Sustainability Working Group. He is a Life Member of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, a trustee of international livestock development charity, Send a Cow, and of the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation, and he is a director of Vet Sustain.
Alex Tomlinson qualified as a vet in 1992. With a background in clinical veterinary practice, Alex went on to specialise in wildlife health, working on conservation projects with Wildlife Vets International http://www.wildlifevetsinternational.org/, most notably the Vincent Wildlife Trust Pine Marten Recovery Project. During this time, Alex developed a keen interest in the pivotal roles that land management and farming practices have on the health of wildlife and the wider ecosystem. Alex now works predominantly on regenerative food systems and land management, with roles in several organisations including sankalpa http://www.oursankalpa.org/, Wilderculture https://www.wilderculture.com/, and FAI Farms http://www.faifarms.com/. Alex is the current Chair of the Food and Farming Working Group of Vet Sustain https://vetsustain.org/ .
Rob Howe graduated from Bristol in 2006 with a keen interest in vetting, farming, wildlife conservation and planetary health. He passionately believes farming is and can be the solution, not the problem of some of the world’s greatest issues. In 2008, Rob founded a farm only vet practice in Lancashire (LLM Farm Vets) which is now part of a group of vet practices (VetPartners) that look after 1/3 UK dairy cows. Rob has been driving progressive farm veterinary services for ten years, very many of which are now being rolled out across the VetPartners group. In the last 2 years he has pushed the principles of Regenerative Agriculture with a sharp focus and services developed to drive interest within the practices’ vets, client base & beyond. These include; Integrated Parasite Control Planning, Soil Health monitoring, Dung Beetle & Farm Bird surveys, Biodiversity Action Plans & maximising farm subsidy based & private revenue streams in conjunction with other groups like the Woodland & Rivers Trusts. He is also currently engaged in phase 2 of Shake Climate Change with an idea based around vets role in regenerative agriculture & specifically to do with beneficials – the Dung Beetle being the principle focus. He also sits on the FAF WG of Vet Sustain, VetPartners Net Zero Farming group while still leading the vet practice in Lancs.
Laura Higham is the founder and coordinator of the initiative Vet Sustain to champion sustainability in the veterinary professions. Laura is a veterinary consultant in sustainable livestock production at the Food Animal Initiative (FAI), working alongside food businesses to drive sustainability in commercial supply chains, with a focus on animal welfare and responsible antibiotic use. Having previously worked in the NGO sector implementing projects to support animal-based livelihoods in Africa and the Middle East, she has an interest in the intersect between international development and animal health and welfare, and the wider roles of vets in society. Laura is currently studying for a PhD in antimicrobial use in agriculture at The Global Academy for Agriculture and Food Security at Edinburgh University and holds an MSc in international animal health.
You can read the session outcomes here.