Memorandum submitted by the Association
of Veterinary Teachers and Research Workers
AVTRW is the largest organisation representing
research workers, not exclusively veterinarians, involved in veterinary
research in the UK and Ireland. We also have some European members.
We are pleased to respond to the call for evidence and would welcome
the opportunity to present oral evidence.
Veterinary research comes through as one of
the most internationally competitive areas of British research
in recent analyses. It is also inherently involved in work intended
to find commercial application, whether in veterinary practice,
public health (control of zoonoses), food hygiene, the pharmaceutical
industry, or other sectors, such as the bloodstock industry, which
are dependent on the health of animals.
There is a crossroads in veterinary research,
not simply because we are in a new millennium, but because the
Selborne Report on Veterinary Research has identified problems
requiring solutions and created a climate of change and, in addition,
the centre of gravity of veterinary activity has moved from farm
animals to companion animals and horses.
In the original Technology Foresight programme
we were keen to ensure that veterinary research should be aligned
with life sciences, in view of the growing importance of comparative
medicine and the prevention and control of zoonoses. Accordingly
our nominee (Prof Michell) sat at meetings of the Health Services
Panel. Despite recommendation from us and from the chairman of
that panel, representation has been lost in the transition to
the new panels under the current Foresight programme. Granted
the importance of the subject, both to the community and to British
industry, it seems strange that veterinary medicine has been marginalised
in the current programme and that this important area of British
research enterprise has lost its link to national scientific policy
Restoration of that link is pre-eminently important
at this time. This is emphasised not only with regard to commercial
opportunities, but to areas of public concern such as the transmissible
spongiform encephalopathies and development of antimicrobial resistance.
Our scientific understanding of these issues would have benefited
from closer alignment of veterinary and medical expertise.
In our wider national responsibilities, the
importance of veterinary medicine in solving the problems of equating
food supply with food production in disadvantaged areas was well
illustrated by the recent award of the International Food Prize
to a distinguished veterinary scientist, Professor Walter Plowright,
12 June 2000