Taranaki veterinarians who attended a roadshow in Stratford early this month agreed the profession has a real role to play along with farmers in New Zealand's reputation in animal welfare.
Nearly 40 industry and practice veterinarians attended the joint Ministry for Primary Industrie NZVA roadshow to discuss greater consistency in the state of stock certified for transportation.
The roadshow's focus was the interpretation of standards for the transport of diseased, defective and injured livestock, as outlined in the Animal Welfare (Transport within New Zealand) Code of Welfare 2011.
NZVA veterinary advisor Roger Marchant said the code describes the minimum standards for care and management when transporting animals. Animals must not be transported if they display any injuries, signs of disease, abnormal behavior or physical abnormalities that could compromise their welfare during the journey, unless a veterinarian has declared them fit for transport.
Taranaki Veterinary Centre's Craig Hassell said there was really good discussion about what exactly constitutes a lame animal not fit for transport.
``Everyone was in agreement the welfare of animals is paramount,'' said Dr Hassell.
Transport can cause significant distress to animals and a compromised animal must only be transported under strict conditions determined by a veterinarian.
The roadshow, which is taking place around the country, discusses with clinicians and meat processing plant veterinarians how to interpret the standard in a consistent manner when farmers or others in charge of animals request a veterinary certificate.
While the code focuses on desired outcomes _ such as stock being in as good condition at the end of the journey as at the start _ it does not prescribe how this is achieved.
Video and photographic material will be used to stimulate discussion and calibration between veterinarians on what conditions are considered acceptable to certify for transport.
Dr Marchant said it is important that clinical practice and meat processing plant veterinarians have similar guidelines for interpreting the code. The updating of NZVA's guidelines for veterinary certification of stock for transportation and MPI's procedures for dealing with compromised animals presented for slaughter after the roadshows should help achieve this.
The roadshow is part of a broader MPI/industry project to ensure everyone in the supply chain complies with the minimum standards for transporting diseased, defective and injured animals.
For farmers, the main message is timely intervention.
``Veterinary treatment or humane slaughter on the farm is often more appropriate than sending compromised animals for stock transportation to a meatworks,'' said Dr Marchant.
The broader project is a key priority this year under the ``Safeguarding our Animals, Safeguarding our Reputation'' programme initiated by the Minister for Primary Industries in 2010.