Access to Veterinarians | Overview, Quick Facts & Resources

Access to veterinary professionals is essential in maintaining our supply of food today.

Veterinarians are highly-skilled professionals, with a deep commitment to the protection of animal welfare. 

Veterinarians are also crucial advisors to livestock producers, whose experience and expertise can protect the livelihoods of farmers and ensure the safety of the food we eat. 

But pressure on our food supply is set to increase dramatically. A rapidly growing global population and a flourishing middle class means production of food protein will need to double by 2050 to feed  10 billion people – approximately a third more than we have today.  

This pressure will be felt most in the many communities across the world who already have inadequate access to veterinary care. This may be because there aren’t enough veterinarians, or because treatments and veterinary care are too expensive. 

Their expertise is sorely needed across the globe. Animal disease is complex and the risk of zoonoses is ever-present. Veterinarians help farmers correctly diagnose and safely treat their animals. Without their knowledge, nations face greater risk of uncontrolled animal disease outbreaks.

These experts also make important prescribing decisions, including the careful balance between treating animals with antibiotics today and preserving these essential tools for the future. Proper diagnosis, dosage and duration are pillars of responsible antibiotic use and veterinarians possess the knowledge to use these medicines properly.

The animal health sector trains veterinarians around the world and invests in the next generation of animal health professionals through university scholarship programs. But ultimately, it’s the job of governments and policymakers to recognize the importance of animal health – and its consequences to human health – and to invest in producing more of these much-needed professionals. 

Quick Facts

  • Small farmers need support: In major economies exporting animal products – such as Brazil or Canada – veterinarians are highly specialized advisers, providing guidance on health and nutrition at herd level. But many small-scale farmers in developing countries do not have this type of veterinary expertise available. There simply may not be enough in the country or they cannot afford the services. Public-private partnerships are helping address the issue, however, as national government support for veterinarians and animal medicines shrinks, the problem may get worse.
  • Paraprofessionals filling the gap: Some countries are seeing a rise in 'Veterinary paraprofessionals' (VPPs) who are trained to execute specific veterinary services. In countries with a limited network of veterinarians, paraprofessionals can be valuable. For example, VPPs helped with rinderpest eradication efforts in Africa. However, as the OIE recommends, 'surveillance and control of animal health needs be supervised by competent, high-level veterinarians.'
  • Not all veterinarians are the same:  In some parts areas, access to the right veterinarian has become an issue. Newly-qualified vets across much of the developed world are becoming more specialized, with an increasing focus on small animals. This has created challenges in the large-animal veterinarians sector where shortages have emerged and personnel are not there to fill the gaps.