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Sometimes the biggest PR achievements are the ones that no-one ever gets to see. That's what happened late last year when TV soap Emmerdale made one of its regular calls to the BVA's media and PR office seeking some script advice.
THE storyline was to involve a micropig being given as a gift and there were questions about whether an immune-deficient child should get close to it. The BVA's media team made a strong case to the script editors to avoid using a micropig due to the wrong messages it sends out about responsible pet ownership (especially so close to Christmas). The Emmerdale producers agreed, and so it will be a piglet taking the starring role when the programme airs.
It won't win the BVA any PR awards, but it does give some insight into the types of calls and e-mails that come into BVA HQ demanding attention.
Thankfully 2011 did provide many media and lobbying successes for the BVA that we can shout about. A snapshot of the BVA's media coverage reveals that the Association gets around 130 mentions per month, the biggest slice of which is in national and regional print. Not surprisingly the BVA also has a strong showing in the veterinary, pet and farming press.
The BVA's series of lobbying dinners in the four capitals of the UK were hugely successful and a useful opportunity to reach parliamentarians and stakeholders directly on a number of key issues.
In Wales, we met with the new Environment Minister John Griffiths, who was particularly keen to hear vets' views on a number of welfare issues and, of course, bovine TB. And in Northern Ireland the Association established an early relationship with the incoming Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill, to discuss the impact of budget cuts on veterinary services, and the particular difficulties facing future veterinary students from Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, the working relationship between BVA HQ and Scottish Branch has gone from strength to strength. The Association has taken a key role on the Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare in the Scottish Parliament, as an organisation with unique scientific expertise.
Throughout the year the BVA has established itself even more as the ‘go to’ organisation for advice for ministers and officials in Defra. On the key issues of pet travel and bovine TB the BVA was closely consulted throughout the decision-making process, including several meetings with the Secretary of State and colleagues in the BSAVA and the BCVA, respectively.
In Europe, we have focused on establishing stronger links with our honorary associate MEPs to get ahead of the upcoming animal health and welfare regulations.
In April, a misunderstanding of the way in which veterinary surgeons use veterinary medicines led to moves in the European Parliament to restrict the ability of vets to dispense. The BVA worked closely with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe to educate MEPs on the realities of animal health and the amendment was defeated.
In 2012, we expect to see an increasing focus on veterinary medicines, and particularly antimicrobial resistance, at European level, and the BVA is ready to tackle these issues head on and champion the right of vets to prescribe and dispense according to clinical judgement.
This year will also see some major policy issues come to fruition: the roll out of the badger cull pilots; announcements on plans to tackle dangerous dogs; a possible announcement of compulsory microchipping of dogs; plans to tackle puppy farming in Wales and Northern Ireland; the next stages of veterinary laboratory ‘rationalisation’ in Britain; the first intake of vet students facing £9000 a year tuition fees; the Legislative Reform Order to update the RCVS's disciplinary processes; the new EU Animal Health Law; and many more.
Remember, if you want to have your say and shape the way the BVA responds to these issues you need to get on to the BVA community, www.bva.co.uk/community
Letting the cameras in
To return to TV programmes, we all remember Vet School, Vets in Practice and Animal Hospital and their ability to give a real insight into the day-to-day working of veterinary practice.
Next up it's the turn of BVA Council's Wales rep Ifan Lloyd, who is letting the cameras in for a BBC Wales fly-on-the-wall style documentary on life in a busy mixed practice in South Wales. Watch this space!