Lessons and Challenges from Ireland

Speaker: Catherine Devitt

In Ireland, an Early Warning System (EWS) is in place to help identify and prevent problems with on-farm animal welfare before they become critical. The system represents a joint, collaborative approach between various farming and animal welfare agencies, and health service providers. It provides a framework for timely interventions to be carried out by the relevant agencies and bodies, or individuals known to the farmer, such as their neighbours.

Research conducted by Devitt et al. (2013; 2014) identified the challenges and difficulties that arise for professionals – government and private veterinarians – when responding to farm animal welfare incidents that involve and arise from human difficulties. These challenges include difficulties in relation to defining where professional parameters should lie when responding to complex welfare incidents, determining what should be the appropriate response, and balancing professional and personal involvement in individual farm cases (Devitt et al., 2014). Indeed, evidence from this research suggests that the potential of intervention-based initiatives such as the Early Warning System are reduced by the informal, inconsistent and ad-hoc nature of communication between first responders (i.e. government veterinarians) and support agencies, and concerns regarding client confidentiality, particularly among private veterinarians (Devitt et al., 2013). This presentation presents the main challenges, and outlines key recommendations arising from the research, including the need for a stronger, coordinated, yet flexible multi-agency approach, as well as guidelines for government veterinarians. The implications for farm animal welfare legislation will be discussed.