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‘We definitely need more veterinarians in Belize’: Agriculture Minister Jose Abelardo Mai on opening Animal Health Week

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Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2022. 12:35 pm CST.

Photo Credit: MAFSE

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: “We definitely need more veterinarians in Belize,” said Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture Minister Jose Abelardo Mai on opening Animal Health Week last Saturday, April 30, at the Animal Health Center in Belize City.

Minister Mai said there has been a disconnect between his Ministry and veterinarians, but he said it’s time that they are brought into the fold.

He welcomed the celebration of the first Animal Health Week in Belize.

“I am grateful to the Veterinary Board and the Veterinary Association for taking the initiative to set aside one week in the year to celebrate animal health,” said Minister Mai.

“We got used to each association doing their own thing, celebrating international days in one species or one product or the other. But it is time we come together. It is time for all stakeholders in animal production and health to come together, to work together and to grow Belize.”

But he said that veterinary care in the country needs strengthening.

“One of the first things our government did for animal production and health was to strengthen livestock exports with our neighbours. This re-start in trade brought to light international trade guidelines that value health and well-being as much as quality of product, and we soon realized that veterinary care in Belize needed strengthening,” said Minister Mai.

He said that the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board has been re-appointed for a three-year term: April 2022 to March 2025.

Minister Mai said that there are 35 registered veterinarians of which 31 percent are women and there are 23 animal health assistants or veterinary technicians of which 35 percent are women.

“I am proud to say that the veterinarian we appointed to the Vet Board is a woman,” he said while encouraging the veterinary technicians to “continue in their love for veterinary medicine and become veterinarians.”

Minister Mai said all practicing veterinarians and veterinary technicians operating in Belize, including those from other CARICOM states, will now have to complete a minimum of five hours of continuing education credits for vets and three hours for animal health assistants, respectively, to be registered every year.

Minister Mai said the Newcastle Disease outbreak last year in the Toledo District showed the need for Agriculture Department officers to take the lead under BAHA’s supervision in animal disease control, adding that veterinarians are very important in this process.

“Many people would ask why veterinary services are important to areas like exports and imports, trade and economics,” said Minister Mai.

“The answer to that is easy to see in sectors like livestock, where vets play an integral part of both the making of strong policy frameworks we sign with other countries while ensuring our monitoring and evaluation of both endemic and exotic diseases gives us a clean bill of animal health status and compliance with sanitary standards when we go to the table,” he explained.

“It is vets that ensure we get accurate zoonotic disease outbreak information, and that our imported animal stock is in top shape. Without you, vets, the cattle, sheep, goat, chicken, shrimp, and other animal industries we rely on for food and income would not be manageable,” he said.

Veterinarians are needed to ensure all the animals we consume and export are healthy animals, he reiterated.

“Although this year the emphasis is on our veterinarians, in upcoming annual celebrations for animal health we will see active participation from other animal production and health stakeholders,” said Minister Mai in opening first Animal Health Week in Belize

Animal Health Week launched on Saturday started with the observation of World Veterinary Day and on its last day, Friday, May 6, celebrates Belize Veterinary Day.

“As the Minister of Agriculture and with the support of other government ministers that interact with Agriculture such as Health, Fisheries, Forestry and Environment, I declare the national animal health week including Belize Veterinary Day to be an annual event and proudly launch the first ever Belize Animal Health week. God bless our veterinarians and all our animal owners, keepers, and handlers,” he concluded.

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