During Europe's first veterinary week, organized by the European Commission and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, animal health officials got the word out on the issue of animal disease outbreaks and their impact on society.
EU Veterinary Week 2008, from Nov. 10-16, promoted the commission's Animal Health Strategy theme, "Prevention is better than a cure," as well as the one-health concept. It also focused on biosecurity, particularly on farms and at country borders.
The goal of the campaign was to promote the role of the EU and member states in safeguarding the health of farm and domestic animals in the EU and abroad, as well as the health of citizens from ensuring safe food and the prevention of zoonoses.
European Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said in a speech at the beginning of the week that biosecurity is an issue that concerns everyone, and it requires cooperation to implement an effective approach to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic epizootic of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001.
Vassiliou said as part of the Animal Health Strategy, which provides the framework for EU animal health and welfare measures, the commission aims to produce guidelines on measures farmers and veterinarians can take to prevent or contain diseases at the source. The commission also intends to revise its import legislation to ensure a risk-based approach to border inspections, which would help in targeting illegal trade, Vassiliou said.
"We have great hopes for the Animal Health Law, which will provide a single and clearer regulatory framework for all our animal health legislation. The Animal Health Law will replace the current series of interrelated policy actions on animal health, which cover many different areas, such as intra-community trade, imports, animal disease control, animal nutrition, and animal welfare," Vassiliou said.
The necessary preparatory work is already in progress, paving the way for the commission to adopt a legislative proposal in 2010.
In the meantime, travelers entering or exiting Europe during EU Veterinary Week were reminded of the health risks involved in the illegal import from other countries of pets and animal products, such as cheese or meat, by use of specially designed stands and distribution of posters, leaflets, luggage tags, and videos.
A European road show spread the message of the two main themes of the veterinary week—one health and prevention—at veterinary conferences, agriculture fairs, and exhibitions.
Informational events across the continent and a conference of high-level animal health stakeholders—including EU member country veterinary experts, animal health stakeholders, customs officials, and relevant EU officials—also took place during the veterinary week.
The conference in Brussels, Belgium, titled "One Health: Healthy Animals = Healthy People," hosted conversations on successful distribution of information and cooperation between various players in the field of animal health so as to implement effective biosecurity measures. The positive impact of high standards of animal health on human health also was discussed at the conference.
At the end of the week, the EuroTier animal trade show in Hanover, Germany, coincided with the meeting of the FVE General Assembly, where hundreds of veterinarians attended. Topics raised were the commission's new Animal Health Strategy and what it means to veterinary practitioners, as well as the importance of a strong veterinary network and how to translate policy into action. For more information on the Animal Health Strategy, visit http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/strategy/index_en.htm.
The information campaign will extend into June 2009 with a customized vehicle that will continue to visit airports, public events, and fairs in Europe.