Vet2011: FAO vets contribute to animal and public health
Next year, 2011, will mark the 250th anniversary of veterinary education and profession. Throughout the year national and international veterinary institutions will be promoting the birth of the veterinary profession. They will raise public awareness about the importance of the veterinary profession, while at the same reminding opinion leaders and policymakers everywhere in the world that veterinarians have been serving humankind for almost three centuries.
The first known ‘veterinarian’ dates back to 1646. This is 115 years before the world’s first veterinary school was founded in Lyon, France, in 1761. A veterinarian (more colloquially known as a ‘vet’) is a person qualified and authorized to practice veterinary medicine. The classical definition of veterinary medicine relates to the science and art of prevention, cure or alleviation of disease and injury in animals (especially domestic animals); Nowadays this definition seems somewhat limited given that contemporary veterinary professionals are involved in much more than treating diseases and injuries in animals. In fact, over the years, veterinary professionals have been playing significant and contributory roles in animal and human health and welfare, food quality, food safety and food security, ecology, ethology, epidemiology, physiology and psychology, development of drugs and pharmaceuticals, biomedical research, as educators and trainers, in wildlife conservation, and the protection of the environment and biodiversity. More than ever, veterinarians contribute to the wellbeing of global societies by detecting, researching, preventing and managing emerging infectious animal diseases that have the capacity to infect humans. In recent years, emerging diseases affecting humans and of animal origin have wreaked havoc to economic and social systems around the world.
For example, the veterinarians working for the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at Headquarters in Rome and Regional Offices worldwide deal on a day-to-day basis with infectious and parasitic diseases in domestic animals and wildlife, as well as with veterinary public health. Some are involved in health crisis management, others in epidemiological surveillance, early warning and prevention systems, diagnostic laboratories and networks, socio-economic impacts and livelihood studies, policy analysis, environmental assessments, elucidation of livestock production systems and landscapes supporting disease spread and persistence, animal nutrition and feedstuffs, animal genetic resources management, and pathogen tracking and disease intelligence.
The collective mission of the FAO veterinary professionals is to strive to assist Member Countries, as best possible, to take full advantage of the contribution the rapidly growing and transforming livestock sector can make towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. For FAO, food and health security present a twofold objective. This can be demonstrated through the multidimensional benefits of eradicating rinderpest from the face of the earth; an achievement of FAO and partners under the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP).