To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of veterinary profession and veterinary science, the UN has declared 2011 World Veterinary Year, a statement from the FAO has said on Tuesday.
The statement said that King Louis XV of France in 1761 had proposed that a veterinary school be founded in Lyon, due to the scourge of cattle disease at the time.
This year also marks the 300th anniversary of the development of the first measures designed to fight bovine diseases.
The measures that were formulated in the early 18th century by an Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini and Giovanni Maria Lancisi, personal physician to Popes Innocent XI, Clement XI and Innocent XII.
The slogan adopted for the celebration is “Vet for health. Vet for food. Vet for the planet!” the statement said.
It said this was the motto that evoked the all-important role that veterinarians play in safeguarding human and animal health in working to enhance food security and in protecting the environment.
FAO, together with the European Union, is one of the principal institutional partners for the commemoration organised by the VET 2011 committee.
VET 2011 committee is a body that brings together all the national veterinary organisations that have adhered to World Veterinary Year.
An opening ceremony was held on Tuesday in Versailles, France, attended by high-ranking French and international public figures.
In his speech, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, emphasised the important role played by FAO — together with its member states and other concerned institutions — in the fight against the numerous zoonotic diseases threatening animals and animal products.
Diouf underlined the measures taken by FAO jointly with the WHO and OIE (the World Animal Health Organisation) to fight the recent Avian Flu H5N1 pandemic.
Jacques said that FAO and OIE would soon announce the total elimination of the bovine disease, rinderpest.
“This will be the first time in human history that a zoonotic disease will have been totally eradicated and only the second time, after the victory over smallpox, that any disease has been totally stamped out of existence,” he said.
He also emphasised the crucial role played by veterinary science, which he said, “has significantly reduced mankind’s exposure to the risks of zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis or other animal flu viruses”.
Diouf said it was estimated that animal diseases caused losses of between 25 per cent and 33 per cent in world animal production.
“The veterinary profession is constantly being forced to deal with new challenges such as new diseases affecting aquaculture and the effects of climate change,” he said.
According to him, FAO has made animal health one of the pillars of its strategies.
The statement said that the FAO currently has 56 veterinarians working worldwide, dealing primarily with infectious diseases and with parasites that affect domestic and wild animals.
FAO’s animal production and health division (AGA) is deeply engaged in the fight to control other animal maladies such as Foot and Mouth Disease, PPR (peste des petits ruminants), African swine disease (ASF) and Rift Valley Fever, among others, the statement said.