May 2004



V. Kouba

Former Chief, Animal Health Service, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Editor-in-Chief, FAO/WHO/OIE Animal Health Yearbook


The availability of competent public professional veterinary manpower is a decisive factor for any effective national and international animal health programmes. A shortage of qualified public service veterinarians is a serious obstacle to the control of animal health and diseases as well as to the national livestock husbandry protection and development. Public professional veterinary manpower is of primary importance for successful application of strategies, measures and methods to promote, protect and restore the  health of animal populations and to protect human population health. It is the driving force for effective transfer of scientific research results and of accumulated experience into animal population health practice. This paper tries to evaluate global public professional veterinary manpower situation using available data reported by individual countries to international organizations. This quantitative analysis is dedicated to global aspects complemented by examples from selected countries. The average values of selected indicators  reflect, to a certain extent, the workload of government veterinary officials and their ability to cope with particular responsibility, tasks and problems. Presented analysis was carried out due to the fact that no any global organization involved in animal health  had  done it itself. This indicates general underestimation of veterinary public service importance for the implementation of animal health policy and programmes.

The global information system on veterinary manpower was established in 1959, within the framework of a joint venture between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Office of Epizootics (OIE). They produced the FAO/WHO/OIE Animal Health Yearbook (2), published by the FAO in Rome.  In 1996, the OIE in Paris took over this role.

This paper represents a follow-up of author’s article on quantitative analysis of global veterinary human resources published  in Rev. sci. tech. Off. Int. Epiz. (10).

Materials and methods

This study employed available data on public professional veterinary manpower - government veterinary officials - how they were published in relevant international yearbooks. Collecting and disseminating data on public professional veterinary manpower was introduced by the author of this paper when he was Editor-in-Chief of the FAO/WHO/OIE Animal Health Yearbook (2) and FAO Animal Health Officer (Veterinary Intelligence) in 1983. Original reporting of “total number of veterinarians” was divided into several categories including “government veterinary officials at central and local levels”. This system is still in use today. The data on veterinary personnel from 1996 onwards were collected by using a common questionnaire as previously, however published only by the OIE in World Animal Health  yearbook (11).

The term “veterinarian” in the mentioned yearbooks was defined as “a person who has graduated from a university-level veterinary school”. The data on the number of veterinarians working as government officials were supported by national documentation required for their salary payrolls. The global analysis was complemented by examples from selected countries significantly influencing the global values and from some other ones representing different continents and conditions. These examples can facilitate the comparison between different countries. Priority was given to major exporting countries having major influence on international trade (potential channel of animal diseases export), giving “lessons” and “examples” to the others and dominating international animal health policy and organizations.

For more detailed analysis were selected data of the year 2000. However, not all countries sent relevant reports for that year. To obtain the most complete global data, the most recent reports available from those countries before the year 2000 were used to substitute the missing information. Statistical publications of the FAO on animal populations, animal production and international trade were used to calculate the different average values  per one  veterinarian.  (4,5).

The results of this analysis have to be understood as the estimates very approximate to the reality. Not all reported data were complete or systematically updated. The data from several countries were estimates only or inexact, due to: deficiencies in reporting and administration systems, changes in information-gathering systems, misinterpretations of the indicators, irresponsibility of relevant officers, etc. Sometimes appeared in the OIE World Animal Health also nonsense data. All these deficiencies  reduced the reliability also of other published data, e.g. on disease occurrence.

Examples of published data: on Belgium number of government veterinary officials in 1999 -  148  and in 2000 -  5463 (!?);  on France  number of government veterinary officials in 1998 - 608  and in 1999 and 2000 always 1000 (!?); on Italy number of government veterinary officials from 1997 up to 2001 always 5340 without any change; on New Zealand number of all veterinarians in 1999 -  1391  and in 2000 -  2186 ; on Kuwait number of government veterinary officials in  2000 – 1, in 2001 – 0 and in 2002 – 25.

Many Chief Veterinary Officers, even of major exporting countries, obviously did not know the size of the main domestic species populations.  The data reported to and published by the OIE differed from those reported as official ones by their governments to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Examples: Chief Veterinary Officers reported to OIE in comparison with official government data sent to FAO-UN: United Kingdom in 2000 less cattle by 3,184,000, less sheep by 1,411,000; Canada in 2002 more cattle by 1,851,000; USA in 1996 less cattle by 2,339,000 and more pigs by 1,989,000; New Zealand in 2001 less sheep by 4,209,000; France in 1996 less cattle by 1,511,000, less sheep by 2,746,000 and less pigs by 1,530,000; Italy in 1997 less sheep by 2,620,000. How these Chief Veterinary Officers can know the real health status of  animal  populations when they do not know the simplest animal population indicator ?

Considering the above mentioned lack of situation knowledge, so called “risk assessment” according to the World Trade Organization – Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, 1994 (WTO/SPS) and OIE Code, requiring many   r e l i a b l e  animal health data from exporting countries to be available to importing ones, is de facto a mere theory (up to fantasy).

For data processing was employed EPIZOO, version 4.0, a software package developed  for analysing information on animal population health/disease and veterinary manpower (


The global growth of the number of government veterinary officials  during evaluated period from 1983 to 2002 was very slow despite the fact that greater government supervision and more rigorous preventive and disease control measures were required due to rapid increase of the trade facilitating the spread of infectious diseases as never before. Development of global number of government veterinary officials over these years see in Table I. The trend expressed in time series regression line was   y = – 7620054.5 + 3890.52 x. Reported number of private veterinarians during the evaluated period was growing much faster.

Reported numbers of veterinarians in selected countries significantly influencing the global values of the year 2002 see in Table II. Among the countries with the highest number of government veterinary officials belonged China (43,900), India (31,425) and Egypt (15,000); former USSR reported in 1982 number of all veterinarians - 80,000, majority of them in government services.

Reported numbers of veterinarians in other selected  countries  in 2002 see in Table III.

The global number of government veterinary officials reported by individual countries for the year 2000 (including the most recently available figures for those countries which did not submit actual reports) reached 192,020 (i.e. 27.77 % of all reported veterinarians). The reported number of veterinarians employed at laboratories, universities and training institutions was 106,303 (15.38 %)  and reported number of veterinarians in private service reached 320,346 (46.33 %).

According to officially reported data the global average number of inhabitants and the land area per government veterinary official in the year 2000 was as follows: 31,522 inhabitants; 13,368 people depending for their livelihood on agriculture; 6,867 people economically active in agriculture; 680 km2 of land; 71 km2 of arable land suitable for crop production and 7 km2 of land under permanent crop cultivation.

The global average numbers of animals per government veterinary official in the year 2000 were as follows: 6,932 cattle, 870 buffaloes, 313 horses, 4,711 pigs, 5,421 sheep, 3,719 goats and 74,581 chickens. Average number of cattle, sheep and pigs per one government veterinary official in selected countries in 2000 see in Table IV.

The global average number of livestock units (LUs) per government veterinary official in the year 2000 was 9221 *). Average number of livestock units per one government veterinary official in selected countries in 2000 see in Table V. Among the countries with the highest average number of livestock units per government veterinary official belonged Australia (63,121), New Zealand (57,244) and  USA (46,886).

*) Following conversion rates were applied: cattle  = 0.7;  buffalo = 1; horse = 1; mule/ass; = 0.8; camel = 1.1; pig = 0.25; sheep 0.1;  goat = 0.1; chicken = 0.01. For the calculation it was used EPIZOO software subprogramme 11.11.7 b.

The global average numbers of animals slaughtered in abattoirs during the year 2000 per government veterinary official were as follows: 1,445 cattle, 2,517 sheep, 1,024 goats and 6,026 pigs.

The global average volume of livestock production during the year 2000 per government veterinary official was as follows: 1,211 tonnes (t) of meat in total, 295 t beef/veal, 40 t mutton/lamb, 20 t goat meat, 467 t pig meat, 230 t poultry meat, 2,551 t cow milk and 267 t  hen eggs. Average amount of produced meat and milk per government veterinary official in selected countries in 2000 see in Table VI.  Among the countries with the highest average of produced meat per government veterinary official belonged USA (15,952 t), Netherlands (7,930 t), Australia (7,085 t), New Zealand (6,776 t) and Canada (5,639 t).

The global average numbers and monetary values of internationally traded live animals during the year 2000 per government veterinary official were as follows: 43 cattle (US$21,617), 83 sheep (US$4,126), 80 pigs (US$6,638), 2 horses (US$9,226) and 3,910 chickens (US$4,029). Among the countries with highest average monetary value of exported animals per government veterinary official belonged Canada (US$1,573,733), France (US$1,281,685) and Australia (US$797,134).

The global average volume and monetary values of internationally traded animal products during the year 2000 per government veterinary official were as follows: 120 t total meat and meat products (US$232,819), 10 t beef/veal (US$20,028), 5 t mutton/lamb (US$11,286), 12 t pork (US$18,638) and 31 t chicken meat (US$31,609). Average values in US$ of exported animals and animal products per government veterinary official in selected countries in 2000 see in Table VII. Among the countries with highest average monetary value of exported meat per government veterinary official belonged Netherlands (US$10,344,361), New Zealand (US$8,961,854), Denmark (US$6,476,711) and  Australia (US$5,786,006).

Examples:  Countries where monetary value of exported animals and animal products in 2000 was higher than one million US$ per government veterinary official: New Zealand – 14,783,812; Netherlands – 14,480,214; Australia – 8,285,069; Denmark – 7,372,482; France – 6,207,885;  Canada – 5,535,061; USA – 3,728,074; United Kingdom – 2,128,801 and Germany – 1,776,298. (Tab. VII).

Comparative analysis of the number of government veterinary officials between different years demonstrated that in many countries public professional veterinary manpower was reduced in spite of increasing needs, size and complexity of the problems related with animal health programmes and rapidly developing national and international animal trade.

Examples of  numerical reduction of government veterinary officials as reported by the countries:  Albania (1983 – 1,418; 2000 – 450), Australia (1989 – 821; 2000 – 507), Austria (1984 – 587; 2000 - 290), Canada (1984 – 1,080; 2000 – 685), Czech and Slovak Republic (1983 – 4,150; 2000 – 1,770), Greece (1984 – 1,150; 2000 -724), Hungary (1995 – 2,392; 2000 - 1,552), Jamaica (1984 – 25; 2000 – 11), Kenya (1996 – 1,053; 2000 – 624), Kuwait (1992 – 96; 2000 – 1), Latvia (1995 - 458; 2000 – 305), Lithuania (1991 – 468; 2000 – 218), Malawi (1984 – 33; 2000 – 9), Mongolia (1989 – 879; 2000 – 20), New Zealand (1993 – 263; 2000 – 192), Peru (1983 – 663; 2000 – 360), Poland (1983 – 7,368; 2000 – 1,640), Portugal (1985 – 1,164; 2000 – 512), Romania ( 1990 – 4,637; 2000 – 2,137), Senegal (1985 – 66; 2000 – 36), Somalia (1990 – 273; 2000 – 121), Tajikistan (1996 – 1,233; 2000 – 697), Tanzania (1990 – 250; 2000 – 150), Turkey ( 1990 – 1,945; 2000 – 1,535), USA ( 1993 – 3,699; 2000 – 2,240), Uruguay (1990 – 488; 2000 – 299) and Vietnam (1998 – 2,554; 2000 – 1,031).


Presented analysis confirms very critical veterinary public services situation contributing significantly to the general crisis of veterinary medicine due to rapidly worsening animal health situation in the world. (8).  In this context the attention merits the statement of  M.M. Rweyemamu and  V.M. Astudillo : ”Since the mid-1980s structural adjustment programmes in developing countries have led to a demand for the  privatization of veterinary services, thus aiming at drastically diminishing the role of the state  in these activities. Surveillance, early warning, laboratory diagnostic services, planning, regulation and management of disease control programme, as well as ensuring the quality and safety of animal products were secondary considerations. The chain of veterinary command that required notification of disease outbreaks enabling a response to disease emergency and which also ensured the management of national disease control programme, was often dismantled.” (13).   These words are valid not only for developing countries but also for the majority of  the other countries, in particular for the most important exporting ones.

Numerically weak public veterinary service can logically perform properly only formal control, e.g., whether the documents issued by non-government veterinarians and laboratories correspond formally with the regulations and instructions but not whether these documents correspond fully with the sanitary reality (e.g. through reinvestigating animals and products selected for export, etc.). The majority of communicable diseases have subclinical course, i.e. there are practically not reportable by the animal owners and not detectable by veterinary service without special testing (i.e. BSE). No specific investigation = no detection of affected animals = reporting and certifying specific disease free status also in spite of  the disease agents occurrence. The veterinary certificates are often of limited value due to the fact that the health/sanitary status and epizootiological situation are not fully known and that they are of informative character only and not health guarantee documents. About 9/10 of known communicable diseases of animals are not obligatorily notifiable and therefore they are not controlled and can propagate freely.

Examples: "It is assumed that, for every case of salmonellosis recorded in humans in the United States, at least nine are not reported.". (Toma et. al.:  Dictionary of Veterinary Epidemiology. Iowa State University Press, Ames, 1999,  p. 147). - The exceptional case of BSE in Canada detected in 2003 showed that during longer period (years) the disease occurrence was reported  to international organizations using symbol of “disease never reported” in spite of its existence; one cow with subclinical BSE was exported  as healthy animal in USA. – Author remembers the case in May 1980 when for final editing of the FAO/WHO/OIE Animal Health Yearbook 1979 were missing data from Lesotho; FAO sent a telex to Maseru, capital of the country, asking for  missing information; next day arrived  the answer  that Lesotho had no animal diseases of international notification; that time there were only two  national veterinarians (one was as refugee in Botswana as district veterinarian in Gaborone and the other one in an office in Rome, Italy); traders were obviously happy for the absence of veterinary strict measures and the government for saving money on public veterinary service.

Chief Veterinary Officers are responsible for health quality of exported animals and animal products – as  the OIE International Animal Health Code (12) sets down: “Article The Head of the Veterinary Service of the exporting country is ultimately accountable for veterinary certification used in international trade.”. How the  Chief  Veterinary Officer can be responsible for the certificate based on investigations by a private veterinarian ? Having not enough staff in government services, they resemble as the generals without army and therefore they must rely on not always reliable, independent and properly trained private service. Without effective supervision/inspection is difficult to expect necessary discipline in implementing the “official” duties of accredited veterinarians and laboratories. The discipline depends not only on the supervision but also on drawing conclusions from not implementing the obligations. The history teaches that if there is a possibility for cheating, somebody it abuses. For this kind of control there is a need of having sufficient number of qualified government veterinary officials what is not the case in the majority of the countries. The problem is also the recruitment of  qualified government officials what often depends inter alia  on unfortunately lower attractiveness of their salary in comparison with the income in private sector.

The first international document defining public veterinary services duties was published by R.B. Griffiths and H.O. Konigshofer in 1974 (6).The duties of government veterinary services are multifaceted. Comparing the number of government veterinary officials and their enormous responsibility and tasks it is clear that numerically weak staff of public services is not in the position to cope effectively and in full with all their duties. In some countries they can have difficulties also with obligatory administration consisting in paper work, using computers (data processing), management, etc. even without any on-ground supervision and additional initiative as far as new national animal health programmes are concerned. Very important is the duty of public veterinary service national administration to prepare necessary animal health legislation for general application and instructions for veterinary services. In the majority of the countries there is minimum or no time of public services for the work at grass root level to investigate on-ground situation, to test animals for trade (at least for international one), to issue official attests, to supervise non-government veterinary services (accredited veterinarians and diagnostic laboratories), to control the implementation of animal health legal duties by animal owners and by animal product processing units; there is minimum or no time for initiating and organizing effective territorial and national disease surveillance (e.g. nationwide specific disease survey testings) and control (reduction, elimination and eradication) programmes, for organizing postgraduate training of own staff,  of accredited veterinarians as well as training of all veterinarians for emergency situations, etc.; there is minimum or no time for controlling properly national and international trade in animals and their products, for border controls to protect country territory against the introduction of animal diseases, etc.

There is difficult to imagine how numerically relatively weak government veterinary service staff of some countries can cope with and be responsible for country animal population health protection and disease control as well as for  sanitary guarantee of exporting animals and their products when for example in 2002 (not considering territory size):

- USA with 2,607 government veterinary officials  reported 96,700,000 heads of cattle and 59,074,000 pigs, export of  243,394 heads of cattle, 405,705 sheep , 206,659 pigs and 4,586,088 t meat and import of 2,505,279 heads of cattle, 5,741,275 pigs and 1,701,935 t meat;

 - Australia with 549 government veterinary officials  reported 50,669,000 heads of cattle, 113,000,000 sheep and  export of 6,078,287 sheep ( 223,000,000 US$ value),  972,340 heads of cattle and 1,466,968 t meat;

 - Canada with 670 government veterinary officials reported  13,699,000 heads of cattle and 14,367,100 pigs, export of 1,690,708 heads of cattle, 5,741,363 pigs, 139,692 sheep  and 1,424,057 t meat and import of 511,987 t meat;

- New Zealand with 224 government veterinary officials reported  9,632,510 heads of cattle and 43,141,900  sheep and export of 750,977 t  meat.

There is obviously a critical situation of lacking necessary number qualified government veterinary officials for effective disease control and for the guarantee of communicable disease free status of exported animals and their products.

Examples: Considering the size of animal population (11,423,000 heads of cattle, 44,656,000 sheep and 7,284,000 pigs, etc.), animal production (708,000 MT beef, 359,000 MT mutton/lamb, 923,000 MT pork and 105,000 MT chicken meat) and animal export (US$108,157,000) in 2000, British government veterinary service was numerically weak (number of government veterinary officials in 2000 – 729 (reduced from 856 in 1995) unable to cope effectively not only with the emergency situation; British private veterinarians failed during  foot-and-mouth disease panzootic in 2001 giving priorities to their current curative practice (mainly due economic reasons) before their participation in demanding long-term eradication campaign out of their homes; it was necessary to invite foreign veterinarians in spite of not having experience with this disease or proper training. -  A large rendering company in UK continued and expanded its export of meat and bone meal, which may have been contaminated with BSE, for 8 years after EU ban in 1988, to 70 countries in the Middle and Far East.”(7). – Agriculture University of Prague imported 60 heifers from Denmark to Lany-Pozary university ranch in 1993 and 395 heifers from France to Ruda university ranch  in 1995  – import supported by government grant; in spite of international veterinary certificates according to OIE Code both shipments were found as affected by trichophytosis (Trichophyton mentagrophytes) infecting also 76 persons and by paratuberculosis (disease never reported among indigenous cattle in the whole country): the breeding programme instead to be improved was paralysed in both ranches, originally with healthy herds; these ranches were eliminated from normal trade and until today the paratuberculosis cannot be eradicated.

However, there are also some countries with major number of government veterinary officials, but due to lack of necessary material, facilities and budgetary support their activities are also limited (e.g. Egypt). Weak public services in many poor importing developing countries, having few government veterinary officials and lacking of almost “everything”, are unable to control local and imported animal communicable diseases.

One of the criteria how far the public veterinary service is able to control  the  e x p o r t   of animals and animal products is the average of monetary values (in US$)  per one  government veterinary official (Tab. VII). It can be supposed as logical that the major average value of this export per government veterinary official can mean the minor chance to control effectively private accredited veterinarians testing and issuing official certificates for  this trade, i.e. major risk to export also etiological agents of communicable diseases. This indicator clarifies in what countries was the origin of the “new” WTO/SPS and OIE trade policy replacing original z e r o   r i s k  trade by non-transparent theoretical “r i s k   a s s e s s m e n t”. This policy ‘’facilitates the export’’ at the expense of animal and human health in importing countries due to significantly reducing their requirements for necessary  protection against the introduction of  animal diseases. This policy favouring exporting countries represents in practice inadmissible pressure on importing country public veterinary services to reduce sanitary defence and to avoid  the reclamations in  disease introduction cases.  This concept is logically welcome by those exporting countries  having not good knowledge of true national animal health/disease situation and being not able to guarantee full sanitary innocuousness of exporting commodities.

Example: Historical world record of  average monetary value  of exported animals and their products per government veterinary official was reached in New Zealand in 1996 -  US$ 17,782,000 ! This fact discovers the reason why this country and its internationally influential veterinary officers were in ‘’front line’’ to change previous WTO and OIE fair trade of zero risk policy into “facilitating trade” through abusing “risk assessment” methods. It can be supposed that S.C. MacDiarmid (as the member of OIE Working Group for Informatics and Epidemiology, as the most frequent author of “risk assessment” theoretical unrealistic papers, without practical prove of its feasibility, in OIE journals and as the “leader” of many OIE risk assessment courses and meetings)  was obviously behind this “new” policy combined with incredible reduction of  previous international information system;  he wrote to the author of this paper a letter dated 15 January 1996 defending WTO/SPS by non convincing arguments and containing following words “If for a particular trade, we have available risk reducing tools (tests, treatment, whatever) which will reduce the risk by 10,000 or 100,000 times, what does it matter what starting risk was ? ”.

It is strange that up to now no any international organization has carried out the most important “risk assessment” study, i.e. how far  the WTO/SPS and the OIE Code trade policy is risky for importing countries and for animal populations health in the whole world. There is obviously a fear to inform truthfully the farmers and consumers in the world about serious risks and consequences, often irreparable and catastrophic, for animal and human health in importing countries (8,9), what would seriously complicate relatively easy “life of the exporters” of not fully healthy animals and products.

Numerically weak public veterinary services of some exporting countries having not full control of international trade can indirectly contribute to international spreading of animal diseases.

Almost all major exporting countries belong among the richest in the world. Therefore, it should not be economic reason for keeping their public services so weak. It is obvious that they cannot control at all the immense export but only formally, i.e. usually through “paper” control and even without seeing  exporting animals and their products. Many of them do not want to or cannot guarantee the export of 100 % epizootiologically (epidemiologically) healthy animals and innocuous products, i.e. free of  agents of  a l l  communicable diseases. They are not required by the WTO/SPS or the OIE Code to admit and to declare openly what they cannot guarantee (e.g., identifying side effects – specific diseases risks - early warning of  the importers) as it is normal fair trade practice in any other commodity. Instead of respecting basic principles of market economy some of them apply the “principles” of camouflaging the troublesome truth on unfavourable sanitary reality, if they know it at all. This was obviously the main reason why they welcome and probably initiated the “new” WTO/SPS and OIE policy minimizing health protective measures of importing countries and even imposing the obligation to accept also non-healthy animals and non-innocuous food, i.e. with the pathogens of communicable diseases!

On the FAO web-site dated 27.5.2002 in the Spotlight "World livestock trade" can be found following sentence ‘The OIE Code was basically written to protect the health of livestock in developed countries.’’

Numerically weak public veterinary services cannot organize effective national animal health programmes (e.g. disease eradication), usually very demanding and costly. Exception is foot-and-mouth disease and some the most dangerous diseases threatening the developed countries. Considering the weakness of public veterinary services there is understandable that the most frequent strategy against communicable animal diseases is trouble-free and cheapest “doing nothing” and applying the philosophy “what does it matter what starting risk was ?” when trade business runs in spite of diseases occurrence and spreading. Businessmen are happy commending “new international  veterinary policy” when getting relatively easy their profit. (The annual size of legal international trade in animals and animal products has reached globally about 100 billion US$). They are not interested in negative, up to disastrous, consequences in importing countries where weak public veterinary services very often, in particular in developing countries, are not able to cope with the imported diseases. We are witnesses of unscrupulous discrimination of importing developing countries, in particular the poorest defenceless ones. Chief Veterinary Officers of importing  countries have often difficulties to resist the pressure not only from exporting countries and by discriminating documents of some international organizations (WTO, OIE, etc.)  but also from local businessmen and somewhere even from the politicians giving the priority to risky import without full sanitary guarantee (sometimes subsidized) before the protection of national animal and human populations health

To ’’facilitate international trade’’ there are two possibilities: either to strengthen public veterinary service and significantly improve animal population health status in exporting countries to can guarantee the export of only healthy animals and innocuous animal products, i.e. pathogen-free commodities or to limit considerably the protection of animal and human populations health in importing countries. WTO and OIE selected the second alternative, i.e. de facto  spreading of communicable diseases into importing countries through international trade! Debilitation of public services in developing countries as the consequence of the WB a IMF policy contributed also to the policy of ‘’facilitating international trade’’ at the expense of importing countries sanitary situation.

The major exporting countries mentioned below seem to have almost decisive influence on relevant intergovernmental organizations policy (WTO, OIE, etc.) in spite of representing  only 6 % of all government veterinary officials in the world. These countries were obviously behind the WTO/SPS policy at the expense of animal and human health in importing countries abusing risk assessment method replacing previous reasonable recommendations of the Code (“Import risk analysis is preferable to a zero risk approach” –  OIE Code 1997, paragraph Instead of strengthening public veterinary services and properly controlling sanitary situation together with disease reduction and eradication programmes (to can export really healthy animals and animal products), they managed through WTO/SPS to start almost unlimited trade (“unimpeded flow” – OIE website of 7.6.2001) in animals and animal products with minimal risks for exporting countries and their profits. Instead of  guaranteeing the health of animals and the innocuousness of animal products, they imposed very problematic and not quantifiable (non-objective) “risk assessment” requirements making difficult up to impossible to refuse non-healthy animals and non-pathogen free animal products ! The main consequence of this  catastrophic antisanitary policy is the globalization of animal communicable diseases = global crisis of veterinary medicine (9).

Examples of proportions from global reported number of government veterinary officials in 2000:  New Zealand – 0.0013, Netherlands – 0.0024, Australia – 0.0034, Denmark – 0.0034 Canada – 0.0046, United Kingdom – 0.0049, France – 0.0067, USA – 0.015 and Germany – 0.0186.

Example of a country influence on the OIE: OIE World Animal Health 2002 yearbook cover page contains the advertising of New Zealand main export commodity what is something unprecedented in the history of official statistical publications of all intergovernmental organizations applying neutral policy. In the same publication on the page 244 there is following sentence: ’’MAF (The New Zealand Food Safety Authority) expertise in import risk analysis and primary processing and food export is widely respected in international forum and New Zealand is well known for the leading edge approach it has taken in food safety management, primarily through the former MAF Food Assistance Authority (now NZFSA). MAF export certification has been, and is, recognised for its credibility and integrity internationally.’’ Where is convincing p r a c t i c a l   international field prove, based on scientific comparative study, of this exaggerated self-pricing propaganda statement ??  The truth is that this country itself, in spite of its import risk analysis (‘’widely respected in international forum’’ ? - this is not objective criterion) , has reported during recent years the import of infectious equine anaemia, haemorrhagic virosis of rabbits and varroosis (reported with delay – OIE WAH 2002, page 249: ‘’national eradication of varroa was unlikely to succeed’’). This country itself did not respect WTO/SPS and OIE Code in case when their fulfilment was not in its interest: in January 2001 it prohibited import of beef and beef products from all countries of Europe including from BSE free countries (even not importing from BSE countries) - this behaviour was, using WTO/SPS  wording, "inconsistent with the provisions of the SPS", without "sufficient scientific evidence", without "documented transparent risk assessment techniques", without any discussion with exporting countries,  without respecting bilateral agreements, without respecting that BSE free countries have the same BSE free situation as in New Zealand which "unjustifiably discriminates countries where identical conditions prevail" and "constitutes a disguised restriction on international trade. This country reported  scrapie occurrence in 1976 and 1978, up to 1984 reported correctly the last case to be in 1978, however from 1985 reported the last case to be in 1955, in 1989 the last case to be even in 1952 and from 1990 has reported last case to be in 1954 ?!?  (Discrepancies can be found also in the reports from other countries. Errare humanum est !  However giving lessons to the others  requires exemplary fulfillment of relevant obligations).

The tendency to minimize public veterinary services involvement in trade control  is reflected in some international documents  trying to “facilitate trade” at the expense of health not considering diseases introduction in importing countries. There are also documents openly and explicitly calling for giving up animal health protection of importing countries and population preventive medicine at all.

Example: "The need to remove technical obstacles to the  f r e e   c i r c u l a t i o n   of animals and their products …" (!?!). "It is not longer possible to apply the old system under which animals and animal products had to come from specific free zones, and were subjected to isolation, quarantine, inspection and diagnostic testing before and after export.". (1)  This is clear instruction for disease spread through international trade ! The tragedy is that these texts were written by a very influential person of the OIE : Chief, OIE Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology and Organization of Veterinary Services in Developing Countries and  Secretary General, OIE Foot and Mouth Disease and Other Epizootics Commission.

The Table IV with data on average number of cattle, sheep and pigs per government veterinary official confirms the difficulty to control properly national animal population health. The same conclusion can be made considering average number of livestock units per  government veterinary official. It can be supposed that usually the major value of these units per government veterinary official can mean the minor knowledge of country epizootiological situation and the minor supervision of private (accredited) veterinarians as well as the minor possibilities to control and eradicate diseases. (Table V).

The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fond (IMF) imposed mainly upon developing countries a privatization mania, somewhere ad absurdum, to minimize public services (loosing the ability to control directly on the spot sanitary situation, trade and import) instead to strengthen them (13). There is a sad fact that so called “experts”  from so called “developed countries” were imposing bilaterally or through international organizations upon these countries the policy of reducing their public services not respecting local needs and conditions, current and future disease control and eradication programmes. They were arguing by their home country “exemplary models” of reduced public services and by unilateral economic criteria being attractive for the governments (minimizing public services budgets, avoiding many complications due to strict veterinary public services control of diseases and trade, etc.). Importing countries have to cope not only with local diseases but also with imported diseases what is not the case of major exporting countries having no need for risky imports.

Example: The most blatant public service destruction was carried out in Mongolia (livestock country with about 3,6 million cattle, 24 million sheep and goats and  0.3 million camels) where foreign “advisers” decimated through privatization strong functioning government veterinary service, i.e. from 879 (in 1989) to 20 (in 2000) government veterinary officials  suggesting to purchase several computer software packages !?

Other example: After 1990 public veterinary services in many Central and Eastern Europe countries, according to so called “western model”, were significantly reduced through  privatization of former strong, effective and successful services (when considering their results in population health prevention and diseases eradication); almost all national eradication, control, surveillance and preventive programmes as well as population etiological  active investigations (surveys) must be stopped; public service direct control of national and international trade was significantly reduced and somewhere even eliminated (investigations of animal and animal products for trade and issuing the majority of certificates must be therefore transferred  to private practitioners). Simultaneously, undergraduate teaching of animal population health prevention and communicable diseases control was considerably reduced in favour of curative  medicine of sick individual animals (mainly pets), to be in line with the above mentioned “model.” E.g., strong action-oriented undergraduate curriculum subject of theoretical/practical Epizootiology was significantly reduced or eliminated as separate subject or converted into purely theoretical Veterinary Epidemiology with  very limited number  of teaching hours.

In some countries due to the lack of necessary public service veterinary manpower the farmers themselves must purchase and vaccinate their animals as requested by relevant legislation.

Example: In the nineties of the 20th century in some South American countries the obligatory territorial vaccination against FMD must be carried out by the farmers themselves and public service was able only to inspect it ad hoc and formally, i.e. to control the documents of vaccine purchase; by using new oil vaccine the possibility to palpate the residua disappeared what was not the case before when the vaccines were based on aluminium hydroxide adjuvants.

Great discrepancies between numerically relatively weak manpower of public veterinary services and their very demanding responsibilities explain the interest of major exporting countries to minimize (e.g. through WTO-SPS and OIE Code) protection measures of  importing countries and to make them impossible to refuse the import  of non-healthy animals or  non-pathogen-free products without “scientific transparent and documented justification” !? (12). Why to justify, even scientifically, the requirement for the import of healthy animals and innocuous animal products ?  On the contrary, the transparent, documented and convincing justification of sanitary innocuousness of animals and animal products being exported should be the duty of exporting countries ! Simultaneously some of exporting countries managed in 1996 to minimize global information regular system on the occurrence of all internationally reportable diseases together with abolishing regular reporting on disease introduction cases through trade (8) making impossible the analyses of these events (“to facilitate trade” ?!) or of objective import risks.  It is probable that these countries were behind the OIE avoiding the inclusion of repeatedly demanded data on the size of active specific investigations of animal populations (active surveys)  into  international animal health information system; these data are extremely important for informing how far reported and published absolute numbers on disease occurrence are reliable, i.e. if based only on ad hoc reporting (= underreporting) or not.

The most responsible public veterinary official work such as investigation of animals and animal products to be exported or sold locally and issuing “official” certificates is today, due to lack of public service capacity,  in the majority of the countries practically in the hands of private service. So called “accredited private veterinarian” is often not independent (when investigating and certificating health status of animals or products originated from the same area of his current activity) on the animal owners - breeders and producers who give him  the work representing for him the income. How importing countries can trust in these cases in informative certificates, in their objectivity and reliability? The purchaser needs  h e a l t h    g u a r a n t e e   d o c u m e n t   with full economic responsibility, e.g. penalization for eventual selling or exporting of not healthy animals or products with pathogens of communicable diseases. It often looks like the accredited veterinarian controls  “results of his work” in the given area. Enormous number of cases of disease introduction through international trade (8,9) were obviously caused by almost incontrollable and practically nonpunishable “accredited veterinarians” when issuing “official certificates” not corresponding with the sanitary reality (gap in particular education and training, not investigating properly, use of non-adequate tests, test results misinterpretation, not knowing the sanitary situation in place of origin, benevolent and holey OIE Code requirements, eventually in some cases corruption and cheating, etc.). Supervision of “accredited” veterinarians and diagnostic laboratories by government services is usually absolutely insufficient which is obvious when considering for example limited number of government veterinary officials. The most critical situation is in the majority of developing countries where weak government services are dedicating almost all their working time to administration activities only, without necessary supervision of non-public sector, and are often almost defenceless against the introduction of animal diseases through trade without full sanitary guarantee and almost powerless against introduced diseases. The businessmen prefer the testing by private accredited veterinarians than by independent public service specialists  who are less benevolent, more consistent in respecting the regulations and more resistant to eventual corruption.

Very important is the grade of requirements for the selection of accredited veterinarians when the quantity to be combined with quality (education, training and practical experience) of these professionals. For so important work in name of public service for national and international trade, such as carrying  out official tests  as the basis for  issuing official certificates on the sanitary status of animals and their products, should be selected only the most competent veterinarians.

Example: USA reported in the OIE World Animal Health 1998, page 340: “The National Veterinary Accreditation Programme has almost 50 000 qualified veterinary practitioners who carry out official tests and vaccinations; conduct herd and flock health programmes; and prepare animal health certification.“ In the same year USA reported 42,825 private veterinarians and in laboratories, universities and training institutions 5,783 veterinarians. Do these data mean that accreditation certificate was given to almost everybody of them ?

The author had the opportunity to attend as observer an accreditation  course for selected private veterinarians in one American continent country: after five days of theory without any practical training and examination every participant got the certificate to can play key official role in animal trade.

There were also cases when international health certificates were issued in spite of exported animals having clinical symptoms of infectious disease or originated from herds with specific clinical symptoms.

Example: Veterinary service of the Czech Republic detected in the 90th  from 326 shipments with 19,350  “healthy” cattle imported from several “developed” European countries in 86 shipments  trichophytosis, i.e. zoonosis with clinical manifestation very easy to recognise (even by the farmers), in spite of official “perfect” veterinary certificates according to OIE Code; many persons became specifically infected. (8).

One century experience confirms extraordinary importance of public veterinary manpower for any animal health programmes for health prevention, disease control and eradication as well as for national and international trade. The author, after becoming Chief of FAO Animal Health Service (AGAH), included among the priorities of the AGAH regular programme and budget the strengthening of public veterinary services in developing countries. Based on rich experience of FAO member country governments and  of international experts and as well as on particular FAO Expert Consultation attended by many Chief Veterinary Officers from different continents, it was produced and published in 1991 a manual “Guidelines for Strengthening Animal Health Services in Developing Countries” (3) translated also in Spanish and French. Unfortunately, the pressure from the World Bank, International Monetary Fond and some other international organizations  dismantled existing public veterinary services in these countries minimizing up to avoiding their ability to control properly animal population health/disease situation and trade (13).

Without necessary number of properly managed competent public service veterinarians, well supported materially and financially, the majority of national and international animal health strategies, programmes, emergency plans, etc. as well as of applied research results can be put in the drawers as paper scraps without any follow-up practical implementation.

Conclusion and recommendations

Presented analysis demonstrates deep gap between the number of government veterinary officials in the majority of the countries and the requirements for  necessary animal and human population health protection, effective disease surveillance,  control, reduction and eradication to avoid pathogens spreading mainly through national and international trade.

Public veterinary services in all the countries to be significantly strengthened in terms of the staff quantity and quality together with ensuring necessary material, facilities and budget to be able to cope effectively with national animal health/disease problems and international trade. This suggestion is not easy to implement, particularly in the countries having serious economic problems. However, the major exporting countries having enough economic resources (not only from trade profit) must strengthen public veterinary services to be able to export only healthy animals and animal products free of pathogens avoiding international spreading of animal diseases.


All provisions of international documents facilitating, admitting or even supporting  communicable disease spreading through trade to be abolished as soon as possible giving importing country public service the freedom to decide about  import conditions without any external interference (as it was before WTO/SPS).


(Full texts of two letters to Dr Mike Moore (New Zealand),  Director General, World Trade Organization asking for and justifying the abolition of the WTO/SPS see in www.cbox/vaclavkouba/warning.htm).

International animal health information system, necessary for decision making of importing country public service, to be significantly improved to provide regular information on  a l l  internationally reportable diseases (at least as it was before WTO/SPS).

Education and practical training in animal population health protection, control and eradication of emergency and other communicable diseases, in diagnosis of general and specific  epizootiological (epidemiological) h e a l t h (not only of diseases) of individual animals, herds/flocks and populations as well as in the diagnosis of innocuous, i.e. pathogen free animal products to be strengthened (diagnosis of   epizootiological health is much more demanding than the diagnosis of the disease, but absolutely necessary for effective animal population health programmes and for communicable disease-free trade).

The use of private sector to fill the gap in public professional veterinary manpower is today the necessity. Strict selection of persons for getting status of “accredited veterinarian” for carrying out some public service duties to be applied, i.e. only after intensive course ended by practical examinations. Full independence of accredited veterinarians and laboratories on  exporting persons and agencies to be ensured.

Relevant international organizations to analyse regularly global public veterinary professional manpower situation and to present to member country governments corresponding suggestions for further development towards strong public services able to cope with actual animal health problems. For this purpose to carry out also studies to compare national veterinary services according to achieved concrete results in prevention, control and eradication of animal diseases (= main criterion of public veterinary service quality).


 1.    Caporale, V. (1994). - Harmonization of activities of the veterinary services in Europe with special respect to principles of certification and to accreditation of European laboratories and the mutual recognition of analysis results. Document for the OIE European Commission. 22 pp.

2.      Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization/International Office of Epizootics (FAO/WHO/OIE) (1956-1995). – FAO/WHO/OIE Animal health yearbook. FAO,  Rome.

3.      Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (1991). – Guidelines for strengthening animal health services in developing countries. FAO, Rome, 141 pp.

4.      Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2000). – FAO Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics, Vol. 1, No. 2. FAO, Rome, 151-162.

5.      Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2002). – FAO Statistical Databases (FAOSTAT). FAO, Rome.   ( accessed 22 October 2003).

6.      Griffith R.B., Konigshofer H.O. (1974). – Standard of Veterinary Services. FAO, 16 pp.

7.      Hodges, J. (2001). – Editorial. Livestock Production Science. 69: 59.

8.    Kouba V. (2003). - Globalization of Communicable Diseases of Animals – A Crisis of Veterinary Medicine. Acta Vet. Brno, 72: 453-460    (

9.   Kouba V. (2003). – Globalization of communicable diseases and international trade. Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics, Vina del Mare, Chile, 17-21 November 2003: 34-36     (

10. Kouba V. (2003). – Quantitative analysis of global veterinary human resources. Rev. sci. tech. Off. Int. Epiz., 2003, 22 (3), 899-908       (

11.    OIE (International Office of Epizootics) (1996-2002). – World Animal Health (yearbook). OIE, Paris.

12.    OIE (International Office of Epizootics (1997-2002. – International Animal Health Code. OIE, Paris.

13. Rweyemamu M.M. and  Astudillo V.M. (2003). - Global perspectives for foot and mouth disease control . 21 (3): 765-773.     (




Table  I

Number of total government and private veterinarians in the world  reported  during 1983-2002


Year      Reports         Reported number of veterinarians                Missing major countries

                                 Total            Government     Private


1983     116              240404             65930             79026                             China(C), USSR(U)

1984     136              260711             96372             81581                                    C,U

1985     151              289969           100057           104679                                    C,U

1986     154              310441           110577           107957                                    C,U

1987     160              333424           118909           124426                                    C,U

1988     165              359501           125087           138481                                    C,U

1989     166              383933           130782           145317                                    C,U

1990     165              403924           120642           166545                                    C,U

1991     169              436701           132342           185615                                    C,U

1992     156              417463           128662           181908                                C,Russia(R)

1993     135              552331           144888           228697                                 R,France

1994     110              520263           141317           215676                                      R

1995     132              565500           154126           229956                                      R

1996     140              524342           151529           206761                                    C,R

1997     152              527074           125173           219692                                    C,R

1998     145              530626           153995           226699                                    C,R

1999     128              490668           156344           212286                                 C,R,USA

2000     136              548660           149561           260923                                    C,R

2001     144              574824           133035           271494                                    C,R

2002     174              645727           196783           306135                                        R    



Table II

Numbers of veterinarians, as reported by the countries significantly influencing the global values of the year 2002


Category                                USA              China               India              Japan             Mexico             Egypt                 UK             Germany         Spain           Australia        


Government officials           2,607              43,900               31,425                8,039                 5,374              15,000               768               2,398               6,846           507

Laboratories, education     5,565                6,000                 3,075                1,396                 5,940                4,500               596               2,479                2,791          333

Private practitioners         45,116                                         1,900               16,458               16,970                4,000           11,568             10,387               8,532        1,795

Others                                   1,538                                         1,475                 3,750                                          3,500             8,654               5,690               2,127          500


Total                                    54,826              49,900              37,875                29,643              28,284             27,000            21,586             20,954             20,296       7,562


Note: Former USSR reported 80,000 veterinarians in 1982 .


Table III

Numbers of veterinarians, as reported by selected countries  in the year 2000


Category                               Argentina     Canada           Cuba          Denmark         France          Indonesia        Italy      Netherlands   N. Zealand    Poland       S.Africa        


Government officials               2,530              685              5,382                512                1,000                   724              5,340               355               192             1,640               253               

Laboratories, education         2,875              352                 937                 321               1,200                    500                578               304               126                242               162               

Private practitioners                6,512           6,206                     0              1,193               8,000                2,176            10,247            2,513            1,073             6,200              932               

Others                                                              846                 268                  921                     ?                    100              1,940               295               795             1,732            1,052


Total                                        11,917            8,089               6,587              2,947            10,200               3,500             18,105             3,467           2,186             9,814            2,399           


Table IV

Average numbers of cattle, sheep and pigs per one government veterinary official in 2000


Species                                  USA              China               India              Japan             Mexico             Egypt               UK             Germany        Spain          Australia


Cattle                                    43,438               2,921             10,251  *)          571                 5,675               490 *)           11,179             5,199                907              52,422

Sheep                                      3,089              6,795 **)        6,328 **)             2                  1,189              300 **)        38,657                 985             2,659            227,724

Pigs                                      26,696             10,420                  677              1,220                 2,921                  4                 8,180              9,255             3,472                5,179


                            Argentina     Canada           Cuba          Denmark         France          Indonesia        Italy      Netherlands   N. Zealand    Poland       S.Africa       Zambia


Cattle                   19,904            21,556              764             3,648               20,097             20,099 *)        1,345           11,465               43,872         3,715          40,942          27,302

Sheep                    4,775               1,263              190                284                 9,509            10,320             2,054             3,683             216,798            193           85,030          9,877 **)

Pigs                           968            17,888               387           23,284              15,993              10,032           1,574           36,952                 6,631        10,040            4,281          3,217


*) Including buffaloes; **) including goats.


Table V

Average numbers of livestock units *)  per one government veterinary official in 2000


                                     USA              China               India              Japan             Mexico             Egypt               UK             Germany        Spain          Australia


Number of  LU          46,886             5,329                9,257                708                6,147                  563               15,798             6,614             2,229              63,121


                            Argentina     Canada           Cuba          Denmark         France          Indonesia        Italy      Netherlands   N. Zealand    Poland       S.Africa       Zambia


Number of LU       15,503          22,140             701              8,907                 22,889              31,970           1,961            21,024             57,244          5,741          42,380           22,910


*) Livestock units – rates:  cattle – 0.7, buffaloes – 1, horse – 1, sheep – 0.1, goat – 0.1, pig – 0.25 and chicken – 0.01.


Table VI

Average amount of produced meat and milk  (in  MT) per one government veterinary official in 2000


                                     USA              China               India              Japan             Mexico             Egypt               UK             Germany        Spain          Australia


Meat total *)             15,592            1,128                   90                    374                 808                     61                 4,399              2,277               685              7,085

Milk total                   34,600                                    2,225                1,057              1,788                   274               19,836            10,213               941            22,057


                            Argentina      Canada           Cuba          Denmark         France          Indonesia        Italy      Netherlands   N. Zealand    Poland       S.Africa       Zambia


Meat total *)              1,595          5,639              47               3,898                 5,120              2,434              2,277            7,930              6,776            1,696           5,400             823

Milk total                    3,874        11,810            115              8,720                25,620                 975              2,114          30,423            62,573            7,157          10,542            667


*) Meat total = beef and veal, mutton and lamb, pig meat and chicken meat


Table VII

Average value in US$ of exported animals and selected  animal products per one government veterinary official in 2000


                                     USA              China               India              Japan             Mexico             Egypt               UK             Germany        Spain          Australia


Animals                    173,688             8,427                 12                    16                   75,252                 5               148,567            154,777          37,554            797,134

Meat total              3,369,462           28,627          10,376               2,209                  44,446              124           1,235,647             758,460        176,796         5,786,006

Milk total                  184,924             1,133               551                  492                    8,140               171             745,587              863,061          38,460         1,701,929


Total                       3,728,074           38,187          10,939               2,717                127,838               300          2,128,801          1,776,298         252,810        8,285,069


                            Argentina      Canada           Cuba          Denmark         France          Indonesia        Italy      Netherlands   N. Zealand    Poland       S.Africa       Zambia


Animals                1,800            1,573,773                              273,308            1,281,685          4,982           4,850          863,115            29,349           55,806         18,885

Meat total        312,168            3,821,330             45           6,476,711            3,360,102      102,866       185,838     10,344,361       8,961,854                187       200,343          2,073

Milk total           97,620               139,958               2              622,463            1,566,098         18,515           6,705       3,272,738       5,792,609         102,806       113,162          1,240


Total                411,588             5,535,061            47            7,372,482            6,207,885       126,363      197,393       14,480,214     14,783.812         158,799      332,390           3,313