Environmental worrier

Dr Andrew Prentis

Andrew Prentis is a Vet and Environmentalist as well as being on the BVA Ethics and Welfare Advisory Panel. He offers such an interesting insight into his observations with some amazing photography and very cynical yet witty comments on his Instagram page – The Environmental Worrier.

In his words, we are all on the same page as him –

“Most of us are worried about the environment. In fact a recent BVA survey found that 89 percent of UK vets wanted to play a more active role in sustainability (BVA, 2019), but I suspect many of us struggle to see how we as individuals can take enough action to have a major impact on global CO2 levels, rising temperatures, melting ice caps, plastic pollution and ecological collapse.

Well, here’s one area where we do have a huge opportunity to make a significant difference.

Let me explain. Many non-domesticated species appear to be undergoing population collapse all around us. Put bluntly, the flies and bugs don’t get squashed on your windscreen these days, largely because they aren’t there any more. Remember that 2017 article by Hallmann looking at insect populations in Germany? “More than 75 percent decline in total flying insect biomass over 27 years in protected areas” (Hallman et al., 2017).

This, then, is a call to action for us as veterinary surgeons:

  1. Stop blanket parasite treatments for pets, especially for parasites that either aren’t there or don’t cause a problem if they are. Just this week there are adverts in the veterinary press for a product that “covers 22 parasites across cats and dogs”, but how many cases of Eucoleus boehmi have you seen in your career? And did you know that a single large dog dose of that product contains the LD50 (lethal dose50) of Imidacloprid for 50 million bees? Indiscriminate treatment has consequences

  3. Start risk assessing our patients – fairly straightforward for most UK parasites once you look at the numbers

  5. Get into the habit of testing before treatment. If American clients all bring in faecal samples at their pet’s annual health check, why don’t the Brits? Because we don’t ask them to

  7. Start doing regular faecal exams in our practice laboratories or pressure our commercial labs to do them for us more cheaply than such services are currently available direct to the public

  9. Be well informed on the environmental profile of all the products we stock and ask the sales reps and technical advisors probing questions about their safety for our patients, the environment and the people who handle them, which includes us

  11. Ask yourself “Would I willingly apply pesticides and other toxic chemicals to my children on a monthly basis?”

Steve Garland, entomologist and Chair of the Wildlife Trusts’ policy setting body for England said: “I really believe that the catastrophic decline of insects can be reversed by drastically reducing the use of chemicals in the environment and creating strong Nature Recovery Networks to give them space to live and thrive in safety.” (Goulson, 2019).

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We are all in this together and as individuals we can all make a difference