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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Vets ‘ready to play their part’ in tackling climate change, but labour shortage a ‘key’ factor

While Irish veterinary practitioners are “ready to play their part” in tackling climate change, a labour shortage in the country is “compounding the situation”.

And this key factor, alongside existing skills deficits, is in danger of impacting on the ground in veterinary surgeries, farms, and a whole host of associated agricultural industry sectors across Ireland.

That is according to a new report, entitled Taking Ownership: Helping Irish vets understand, begin, and maintain their sustainability journey, by XLVets Skillnet and XLVets Ireland, in partnership with Skillnet Ireland and EcoMerit.

It states that “currently, we have only 88% of the veterinary professionals we need to service the market”.

“It is no surprise that many cite the lack of time and resources as preventing them from focusing on sustainability within their practices daily,” the report reads.

Vets in Ireland 

While vets are motivated to adopt a greater level of sustainability in their practice, challenges to do so are also evident, the report highlights.

The report adds that “supports to deal with these are very much required and once these shortfalls can be addressed, vets agree that there is considerable scope for action”.

The pace of climate change has “picked up significantly” in recent years and is threatening the welfare of our natural and agricultural environment and by extension our lives, businesses, and futures, it adds.

A spokesperson said: “Irish veterinary professionals are privileged to work at the intersection of animal, human and environmental health.”

“This unique position enables veterinary professionals to recognise the role sustainable thinking and action can play in their businesses and to use their position to influence and advocate for change.”

“The research found that while commitment to sustainability is not in doubt, little or no measurement processes were in place, recognising the early stage of most veterinary sustainability journeys.”

Climate change and sustainability 

A key finding of the report highlights that 77% of Irish vets believe the issue of sustainability and climate change is either extremely important or very important to them personally.

They are of the view that continued inaction on their part and society at large will further increase global temperatures, creating more of the extreme weather events that are already becoming more commonplace.

This impacts the welfare of animals in Ireland and beyond and for the people who work with and care for these animals every day, the time for action has come, the publication outlines.

Respondents recognise the advantages of tackling climate change from within and are “keen to kickstart” their own sustainability drives if they have not done so already.

The report acknowledges this practical approach by closing with a series of initiatives that every veterinary practice can “adapt and apply – no matter what their size or capability”.

It contains a number of practices that professionals can successfully integrate environmentally sustainable solutions into their day-to-day veterinary practices.

Initiatives and policies

This research helps identify key training and support gaps in the area of sustainability, enabling XLVets Skillnet to put in place initiatives and policies to meet the needs of the Irish veterinary sector.

The publication contains a number of stages, ranging from 1 to 6, as part of a sustainability journey.

The first focuses on maintenance, repair and recycling, the second: is reusables and energy audits, 3: equipment and digitisation, 4: vehicle assessments and energy use reduction, 5: farmer and pet owner education and 6: renewable energy and remote consultation.

The report authors recommend that veterinary practices begin at stage one and tackle three tasks in the first 30 days, and ensure results by then progressing to stage two, etc.

You can find the publication on XLVets’ website.

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