Role of the Canadian Veterinary Profession in Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change
October 21, 2022
The CVMA recognizes that the Canadian veterinary profession must play an active and prominent role in supporting society’s efforts to mitigate, prepare for, and adapt to the effects of a changing climate in accordance with the profession’s involvement in applying the concepts of One Health and One Welfare.
- The Canadian veterinary profession is well-positioned and critically important in providing leadership, subject matter expertise, and assistance for the development of preparedness, response, sustainability, and adaption strategies in areas impacted by climate change.
- It is imperative that the Canadian veterinary profession collaborates with stakeholders, partners, and/or rights holders including industry, government, academia, Indigenous peoples, and the public to recognize and address the challenges of climate change both nationally and globally.
- The veterinary profession is highly trusted by Canadians and as such has a responsibility to provide leadership in helping Canada achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
- The CVMA supports the development of educational opportunities on topics such as the impact of climate change and the development of easily implementable greenhouse gas reduction strategies that could be applied by veterinary students and practicing veterinarians in Canada.
- The science of climate change is well-accepted, including consensus that production of greenhouse gasses arising from human activity is largely responsible for its detrimental effects (1,2).
- As a profession dedicated to the principles of One Health and One Welfare (3) the veterinary profession holds a moral and ethical responsibility to assist society in its efforts to mitigate, prepare for, and adapt to the effects of climate change.
- There is a recognition that climatic changes that are now underway are accelerating and are having disruptive and detrimental impacts on One Health and One Welfare globally (4). These include negative effects on human health and well-being, animal health, animal welfare, wildlife health, and the sustainability of agricultural and food production systems. Examples of events that may become more frequent and severe as a result of climate change include
• outbreaks of emerging and zoonotic diseases (e.g. vector-borne diseases), often outside of their normal range ,
• appearance of invasive species.
Such events can result in agricultural disruption; food insecurity; loss of biodiversity and adverse consequences to human health and wellness, and animal health and welfare.
- Avoiding serious and irreversible harm to the health and welfare of humans and animals in the coming years will require the development and implementation of strategies that allow society to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
- Countries in the northern latitudes such as Canada, are warming twice as rapidly as the global average and in Canada’s north, three times as rapidly (4). Given this, the Canadian veterinary community and all who aim to promote and protect the health of Canadian domestic and wild animals are likely to be impacted much sooner by climate change than their counterparts in many other countries. It is therefore imperative that the veterinary profession in Canada collaborates with stakeholders, partners, and/or rights holders including industry, government, academia, Indigenous peoples, and the public to recognize and address the challenges of climate change (5) both nationally and globally.
- The Canadian veterinary profession plays a frontline role in One Health and One Welfare by working at the interface of human, animal, and ecosystem health (6). The profession is therefore well-positioned and critically important in providing leadership, subject matter expertise, and assistance for the development of preparedness, response, sustainability, and adaptation strategies in areas impacted by climate change, including through the profession’s involvement in and support for:
• Detection, surveillance, management, and control of emerging and zoonotic disease, including vector-borne disease;
• Ecosystem and wildlife health;
• Food security and food safety;
• Existing animal agriculture production practices aimed at climate change mitigation and adaptation (e.g. carbon capture efforts such as proper range management, crop rotation, and waste management).
• Research on enhancing and promoting the above animal agriculture production practices;
• Management of natural disasters such as fires and floods, including preparedness and response strategies;
• Animal welfare, including addressing the challenges presented by climate change to the welfare of farm animals, wildlife, and companion animals.
- The Canadian veterinary profession is well-positioned to bridge gaps and facilitate dialog on the topic of climate change due to its trusted ties with industry, government, academia, Indigenous peoples, and the public. In particular, the profession is an essential voice in risk communication regarding the impacts of climate change on animal production, health, and welfare. Risk communication efforts need to be directed at stakeholders (e.g. veterinary clients, allied health professions, the general public, governments, and food production sectors) through advocacy, outreach, and awareness-building activities. In addition, risk management strategies aimed at improving preparedness, response, and adaption in the areas of animal production, health, and welfare should be developed by a multi-stakeholder collaborative process which should include or in many cases be led by veterinarians.
- The veterinary profession internationally has recognized its essential role in assisting society address the current and future challenges presented by a changing climate.
• Individual veterinary professionals recognizing the impact of climate change on animal and human health and the need for veterinarians to play an advocacy role in society (7, 8).
• The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizing the key role that veterinarians play in sustainability and problem-solving given the interplay between environmental science, climate change, and animal health (9,10).
• Veterinary associations in Australia and Britain recognizing through policy development and publications the key role of the veterinary profession in assisting society in its response to the challenges of climate change (11,12).
• The World Veterinary Association adopting in 2020 a position statement on the Global Climate Change Emergency (13).
- The veterinary profession is highly trusted by Canadians and as such has a responsibility to provide leadership in helping Canada achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets through advocacy efforts and by employing individual and corporate strategies and practices that minimize greenhouse gas production, reduce waste, and encourage reuse of materials.
- The CVMA supports the development of educational opportunities for Canadian veterinary students and practicing veterinarians on topics such as the impacts of climate change, emergency preparedness and response, adaptation strategies to support environmental sustainability for animal agriculture, easily implementable greenhouse gas reduction activities for veterinary practices, and other climate change mitigation strategies.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2022. https://www.ipcc.ch/.
- Government of Canada. Climate Change 2022. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange.html.
- Joann M. Lindenmayer and Gretchen E. Kaufman, One Health and One Welfare in One Welfare in Practice. Tanya Stephen ed. Published October 26, 2021, by CRC Press. https://www.routledge.com/One-Welfare-in-Practice-The-Role-of-the-Veterinarian/Stephens/p/book/9780367904067 ) and https://www.onehealthcommission.org/documents/filelibrary/resources/library/book_chapters/One_Health_and_One_Welfare_Chapter__1884F534ED0DD.pdf.
- Government of Canada Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy (Discussion Paper - May 2022). https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/national-adaptation-strategy/preparing-discussion-paper-may-2022.html.
- Stephen, C. Stemshorn, B. Climate Change and Veterinary Medicine: Action is needed to retain social relevance. Can Vet J. 2019 Dec;60(12):1356-1358, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6855223/.
- Renwick, Shane. Managing global infectious disease threats: The Role of the Veterinary Community. Frontline Safety and Security (2015). https://security.frontline.online/article/2015/3/3537-The-Role-of-the-Veterinary-Community.
- Kramer, CG et al. Veterinarians in a Changing Global Climate: Educational Disconnect and a Path Forward. Front. Vet. Sci., 17 December 2020. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.613620.
- Kiran, Dilara. Empowering Veterinarians to be Planetary Health Stewards Through Policy and Practice. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2022.775411/full.
- JAVMA 2018 Environment chair sees strong veterinary connection. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2018-04-15/environment-chair-sees-strong-veterinary-connection.
- Mazet, Jonna. Veterinarians could lead sustainability efforts. JAVMA Nov 2020. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2020-11-01/veterinarians-could-lead-sustainability-efforts.
- Australian Veterinary Association (2016) Climate change and animal health, welfare, and production. https://www.ava.com.au/policy-advocacy/policies/environment-and-conservation/climate-change-and-animal-health-welfare-and-production/.
- British Veterinary Association. Focus on Climate Change. Veterinary Record (2021). https://bvajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/toc/10.1002/(ISSN)2042-7670.focus-on-climate-change.
- World Veterinary Association December 2020 WVA Position on the Global Climate Change Emergency. https://worldvet.org/uploads/news/docs/wva_position_on_the_global_climate_change_emergency.pdf.
(Adopted October, 2022)