Charlie McConalogue T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food & The Marine, officially opened the Veterinary Ireland AGM & Conference at the Mullingar Park Hotel, Co. Westmeath today (25th November 2022).
Speaking in Mullingar, the Minister said that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) continues to remain in the top five global public health threats. Ireland has supported and implemented a One Health Action plan, iNAP to address this global challenge.
“Prevention is better than cure – but behavioural change in relation to how we use antimicrobials requires leadership,” said Minister McConalogue. “I am confident that veterinarians will play a key role addressing these challenges and can encourage clients to develop meaningful herd health plans, strategically focused on optimising animal health and reducing the use of antimicrobials, to ensure a sustainable long-term future for animal-based production systems.”
The Minister said that the worrying development of APR (antiparasitic resistance) threatens the sustainability of our grass-based production model, with potentially devastating impacts on animal health and welfare and can result in production losses in food-producing species, presenting a challenge for food security.
“This year my Department introduced a TASAH programme to specifically focus on parasite control on farms. This programme reinforced the value of veterinary expertise in successfully controlling parasites at farm level,” said Minister McConalogue. “Anthelmintic resistance is a complex problem and as management practices and risk factors vary markedly between farms, there is huge value in tailored veterinary advice.”
AMR Resistance – The ‘Silent Pandemic’
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) was described as ‘the silent pandemic’ at the Veterinary Ireland conference by Martin Blake MVB MRCVS MBA, Chief Veterinary Officer, Department of Agriculture, Food & The Marine.
“Whilst there are no daily press conferences outlining numbers of cases and deaths, a recent publication from the Lancet1 on the global burden of AMR, reports that in 2019, AMR associated deaths globally were estimated to have been 4.95 million. This is in comparison to the WHO’s global estimation2 of 4.8 million Covid-19 associated deaths in 2020,” said Martin Blake.
“This is why addressing Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in both the animal and human health sectors is one of the most critical objectives of the new European Veterinary Medicines Regulations (Regulations EU 2019/6 and 2019/4).”
Martin Blake said that Ireland has already been active in seeking to address the challenge of AMR. “Some of the new requirements introduce some additional constraints. However, they also bring many benefits - the most important of which is to reduce AMR by promoting prudent and responsible prescribing of antimicrobials, which will be measured and analysed at a national level through the new online National Veterinary Prescription System (NVPS).”
One World & One Health action needed to keep the antibiotic show on the road
“Antibiotics transform and extend lives. We need antibiotics that work for people and animals. They prevent suffering, premature death and economic loss,” said Professor Martin Cormican MB BCh BAO, National Clinical Lead for HCAI and AMR, Professor of Bacteriology, School of Medicine, University of Galway.
Professor Cormican said that antibiotic resistance is making it progressively more difficult and more costly to prevent and treat infection.
In people and in animals we are using more or less the same set of antibiotics. “We need to make what we have last,” said Professor Cormican. “We know what will work to slow or stop antibiotic resistance.”
“We will use less antibiotics in all sectors if we prevent infection with hygiene, sanitation, and vaccination. We will use less antibiotics if we get better at diagnosis of infections that antibiotics don’t work for. When we need antibiotics, we can use them better.”
“The world is so connected by travel and trade that no sector and no country can hold back this tide on its own. We need more One World & One Health action,” concluded Professor Cormican.
Net Zero Achievable for Most Livestock Farms
Reducing farming’s Carbon Footprint while feeding the World, is why the phrase “Net Zero” was set as a goal for societies, explained Professor John Gilliland OBE DSc, Director of Global Agriculture & Sustainability, Devenish Nutrition.
Professor Gilliland said that Net Zero for most livestock farms is achievable, but only where policy makers and regulators go on this journey, alongside our vital farming businesses. The health and welfare of our livestock will be vital if this journey is to succeed.
Facing the Climate Changing Future
Dr. Ellen Hegarty MVB MSc is the author of a report entitled Vetting the Professions for a Climate Changing World. Dr Hegarty told delegates that obligations and necessities around climate change, climate adaptation and climate mitigation may profoundly affect the nature of the veterinary profession.
The report found that the Irish veterinary professions want to take a pro-active role in the climate changing future that they face. “Irish vets and vet nurses believe in their own personal efficacy to make a positive difference but welcome and are seeking guidance, supports, resources and leadership at every level,” said Dr. Hegarty. “Change is coming to the veterinary professions, and we can stand by waiting to see what our climate changing future has in store, or we can choose to have agency over these changes by taking a proactive stance through education, guidance, policy-creation, professional incentives and regulations.”
New President For Veterinary Ireland
The Presidential chain of office was presented to incoming Veterinary Ireland President Paul McDermott, MVB MRCVS MSc CertVPH by outgoing Veterinary Ireland President Dr. Joe Collins MVB PhD CBiol CSci FRSB MRCVS CertEP CertVR.
Dr. Collins said that the veterinary profession can make a significant contribution to animal, human and environmental health as well as agricultural productivity in the interests of future sustainability. “The 'One Health' concept highlights the growing risk of AMR which must be mitigated by all of the professions, including veterinarians, acting for all. Our work is greatly supported by the continuing availability of veterinary medicines of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, properly regulated,” said Dr. Collins.