Walloon veterinarians raise alarm over industry malaise

Walloon veterinarians raise alarm over industry malaise
20130919 - BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Illustration picture shows a veterinarian sign in Brussels on Thursday 19 September 2013. BELGA PHOTO SISKA GREMMELPREZ

Lacking manpower and sufficient pay, Belgian vets are struggling with an administrative overload, high levels of burn outs, and even death threats from angry customers, the Professional Veterinary Union (UPV) warned on 31 July at the Libramont Agricultural Fair, according to the Belga news agency.

During the event, the UPV presented the results of a survey conducted by the group on the psychological wellbeing of veterinary workers and their socio-professional expectations. The results were discussed in front of the Federal Agriculture Minister David Clarnival, Walloon Agriculture Minister Willy Borsus, and Wallon Animal Welfare Minister Céline Tellier.

The survey, of around a quarter of all Walloon vets (500), reveals that only one third of vets have confidence in the future. 70% of vets interviewed worked more than 40 hours a week and 30% worked more than 50, which drastically increases the risk of burn-out.

Furthermore, more than one in four vets leave the profession or Belgium within three years of becoming established vets, Léonard Théron from the UPV warned. Théron called this a “catastrophic brain drain when we know the quality of veterinary training in Belgium and the cost that this represents.”

Professionals in the field expressed their love for the field, but complained that the administrative burden imposed by Federal agencies and Afsca weighed heavily on their activities. “The mental burden of the fact that animals’ lives depend on you and that it never stops,” Théron explained, was a massive stress for vets.

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Despite more than six years of training to become a vet, the Belgian vets complain that they are not sufficiently compensated. As a result of the low pay, and other poor working conditions, the industry is heading into a crisis.

“We are sounding the alarm: in five years’ time, there will not be enough vets to replace the generation that is leaving,” the UPV representative warned.

The UPV has praised recent political measures to support the industry, such as legal support for the association of veterinarians and raises to the wage of federally-employed vets, but are awaiting new measures to support the flailing industry. The UPV would like the government to establish a permanent observatory board for the profession.

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