What does The Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Bill, 2010 portend to the livestock subsector?

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The Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Bill, 2010 was passed in parliament at the third reading with amendments by Hon. Mututho committee on 31 March 2011. It is now awaiting presidential assent to become Cap 366 of the Laws of Kenya. The significance of the

last minute amendments has raised a storm in the animal resource industry. There is fear that if allowed to become law many trained professionals in the livestock subsector are likely to lose their jobs or be faced with many superfluous obstacles in the normal course of their professional duties. The alarm has swiftly been raised by the Kenya Society for Agricultural Professionals (KESAP), Animal Production Society of Kenya (APSK), and Kenya Association of Livestock Technicians (KALT).

Conversely the Kenya Veterinary Association (KVA) supports and maintains that the bill will go a long way in curing the ills afflicting the livestock subsector. They cite resistance to drugs and drug residues in livestock products, ostensibly brought about by quacks, as principally among the foremost problems that need to be tackled right away for the country to salvage the livestock subsector and reclaim the export market it had long lost to competitors.

Intensity of class accent

Reading through the bill, one is struck by the intensity of class accent. The bill has for all intents and purposes divided the animal resource industry into two classes, the finer veterinary surgeon and the lesser veterinary Para-professional. A clear and very distinct line is drawn beyond which the Veterinary Para-professional dare not cross lest stern action be taken against them. In the zeal to contain the Veterinary Para-professionals, the surgeons have effectively stripped them off most of their legitimate duties which they are well trained to perform. The second schedule dealing with services and procedures to be offered by veterinary para-professionals and procedures is too restrictive.

Consequent to the privatization of veterinary services in the late nineties, the provision of veterinary services in remote villages and scarcely populated extensive production areas by and large collapsed, as veterinarians saw practicing in these areas as unattractive. On the other hand, the demand for veterinary services continued to increase. Experience indicates that the so called veterinary para-professionals are more suited and reliable in delivering veterinary services in marginal, low potential areas than are the public veterinary services or private sector veterinarians. Veterinary para-professionals offer an affordable alternative to deliver selected services, even on a commercialized basis.

While appreciating the need for self regulation in the veterinary and para-veterinary career, other personnel such as university professors, animal scientists, qualified researchers and extensionists in the animal resource industry would be affected in practicing their trades as they would be restricted from performing their functions such as giving non-surgical procedures to animals unless they registered themselves as Veterinary Para-professionals. The amendment in Clause 17 sub clause (1) paragraph (c)

17. (1) A person shall be qualified for registration as a veterinary para-professional if the person—

“(c) is qualified in animal husbandry, range management or wildlife health, and has undergone a course of not less than one year in animal health prescribed by the Board and has served an internship of not less than twelve months under the supervision of a registered veterinary surgeon”

means that these specialists in the livestock subsector would have to go back to school for a one year certificate course in animal health and serve an internship of not less than twelve months under the supervision of a registered veterinary surgeon irrespective of whether they are university professors, animal scientists, qualified researchers or extensionists in the animal resource industry. It is striking to note that these specialists are qualified trainers of the certificate course in animal health.

Animal resource industry

The bill has rightly defined animal resource industry as a sector responsible for animal production, quality assurance, marketing, animal food security and sanitary factors in livestock, companion and other non human animal resources development; but has completely ignored the fact that veterinary medicine or surgery is just but one of the many important branches in the livestock sub sector. Indeed the Ministry of Livestock Development has two important departments, i.e. the Department of Veterinary Services and the Department of Livestock Production with completely distinct mandates. Thus there are other specialists in the livestock sub sector who are not necessarily veterinarians. Training in veterinary medicine principally covers the health aspects of livestock and therefore to declare that a veterinary surgeon is the only person qualified to coordinate the animal resource industry is to deny these other specialists fair opportunities to contribute to livestock development in Kenya.

“animal resources secretary” means a veterinary surgeon registered under this Act appointed to coordinate the animal resource industry in matters pertaining to animal health and production, policy, welfare, animal food safety and trade certification of animals and animal products”

Other than the clauses dealing with Para-professionals, the bill is pretty much the same as the one intended for repeal and replacement, i.e. theVeterinary Surgeons Act, Cap. 366, which provided for the regulation of the practice of veterinary medicine. The Veterinary Surgeons Act has many provisions to rein in rogue veterinary practitioners or quacks but minimal or no effort has been made to enforce the law. The country is littered with many known quacks who have never received any formal animal health training but continue to operate with the full knowledge of government veterinary officials.

Chemical and drug residue in livestock products

The issue of chemical and drug residue in livestock products requires a multi-sectoral approach. The Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Bill, 2010 cannot in itself deal with this problem because other players outside the livestock subsector are involved. For example meat and other livestock products from Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) cannot be exported due to chemical contamination from numerous adjacent industrial processing plants like DEVKI Steel Milling Plant and Bamburi Cement Factory. Drug residue in livestock products occurs when an animal is slaughtered before completing the withdrawal period after treatment. Livestock owners often sell their animals for slaughter upon the slightest suspicion of imminent livestock death to minimize loses and this cannot be blamed solely on Veterinary Para-Professionals. It could happen to anybody be it a Veterinary surgeon of Veterinary Para-professional who carried out the treatment.

There is the need to separate the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Bill, 2010 and make it an important component of a broader animal resource industry bill which would take into account all the players without discrimination.

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