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Former Chief Veterinary Officers

Position Statement and Strategy on Climate Change


Who are We?

We are a group of former Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) and senior government veterinarians from the Commonwealth and every Australian State and Territory.  CVOs lead public animal health services in the prevention, detection and response to serious animal diseases and other emergencies in the broader biosecurity sphere.


Each of us has decades of experience advising governments on how to keep animals and people safe. We have led responses to prevent, suppress or eliminate many potentially devastating diseases and to safeguard animals in natural disasters like fires and floods, thus stopping significant damage to Australian lives and livelihoods.


Membership as at September 2021

Dr Ron Glanville, former CVO Queensland
Dr Rick Symons DSC, former CVO Queensland
Dr Ian Wells OAM, former CVO Queensland
Dr Helen Scott-Orr PSM, former CVO New
South Wales and former Australian
Government Inspector-General of Biosecurity
Dr Ian Roth PSM, former CVO NSW
Dr Richard Jane AM, former CVO NSW
Dr Bruce Christie, former CVO NSW
Dr Therese Wright, former deputy CVO, NSW
Dr Andrew Turner, former CVO Victoria
Dr Hugh Millar PSM, former CVO Victoria
Dr Charles Milne, former CVO Victoria
Dr Rob Rahaley, former CVO South Australia
Dr Robin Vandegraaff, former CVO SA
Dr Geoff Neumann, former CVO SA
Dr Roger Paskin, former CVO SA
Dr Rod Andrewartha, former CVO Tasmania
Professor John Edwards, former CVO Western
Dr Peter Buckman, former CVO Western
Dr Mike Bond, former CVO Western Australia,
former Australian Government Inspector-
General of Biosecurity and former CEO of
Animal Health Australia
Dr Allen Bryce, former CVO Northern Territory
Dr Malcolm Anderson, former CVO NT
Dr Peter Hooper, former CVO NT

Dr Brian Radunz, former CVO NT
Professor Martyn Jeggo, former Director,
Australian Animal Health Laboratory
Dr Kevin Doyle AM, former Deputy CVO,
Australian Government
Dr Mike Nunn, former Principal Scientist
(Animal Biosecurity), Australian
Government, and former CVO Papua New
Dr Bill Scanlan, former Manager, Australian
Animal Health Committee Secretariat
Dr Graeme Garner AM, former Senior Principal
Research Scientist and Director of
Epidemiology and One Health, Australian
Dr David Adams, former Senior Principal
Research Scientist, Office of the Australian
Dr Peter Black, former Principal Scientist,
Australian Government
Dr Peter Thornber, former Director, Animal
Welfare Policy and Australian Animal Welfare
Dr Reg Butler, former Senior Principal
Veterinary Officer, Australian Government
Dr Chris Bunn, former Senior Principal
Veterinary Officer, Australian Government



Core Aims / Outcomes.

Urgent and more emphatic action is required to avert the threat to animal, plant and human populations posed by climate change, habitat destruction and a reduction in the extinction of indigenous animals and plants.


To mitigate the most severe climate threats, Australia must adopt a unified national position, strategic vision and action plan to meet and exceed the Paris agreement commitments of 2015.


Specifically, current estimates are that to meet the Paris Agreement 1.50C and 20C targets requires achievement of net zero emissions by 2030 or 2035 respectively.


Australians should adapt animal keeping and management practices of carbon abatement to minimise the animal welfare and environmental impacts of climate change, as well as maximise opportunities for carbon sequestration.


Objectives of the former CVO Group

Raise awareness amongst veterinary practitioners and students, broader animal care industries and communities, the national populace and politicians of the urgent need to implement policies to mitigate and reduce global warming and the looming climate crises.

  • Document and communicate the animal health and welfare and biodiversity risks of climate change. 


Consult on strategic issues to achieve this goal e.g. COP26. Form alliances and collaborate directly with like-minded veterinary/agricultural/health groups including the AVA, VfCA, FfCA, MLA, DA, NFF CAHA, AHA and Veterinary Faculty Deans Group.


Provide regular briefings to decision makers at State and Federal level, collaborators and the broader animal care professions.


Relationship with Veterinarians for Climate Action (VfCA)

We are a separate group to VfCA, given that the Group may contribute to other policy discussions within Australia, e.g., animal health and biosecurity policy.  


On climate change action, we will closely collaborate with VfCA while remaining autonomous.


Members of the group are encouraged to individually become members of VfCA.


We also encourage the formation of national and international alliances within the veterinary profession for action on climate change.


Why listen to us?

Firstly, we have listened to the science.  We are not climate scientists, but we do listen to and respect other disciplines.


When we were chief veterinary officers, governments listened to our advice during times of animal disease emergencies and crises - for example equine influenza, avian influenza and anthrax, as well as during eradication programs for diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis.  During the COVID-19 crisis, governments have acted on expert advice.  So, our message to the government is - climate change is happening now, please listen to the experts and act.


We need to set a target based on the best science and act aggressively to meet that target.  Australians are practical, determined and creative problem solvers.  We can solve this crisis if we work together.  But we need our government to lead the way.


Further, global action is urgently needed to reduce emissions that cause global warming and drive changes in climate, particularly to reduce the use of fossil fuels and drive a rapid transition to renewable energy sources, as well as to reduce our overall environmental footprint.  Australia, while a relatively small contributor on a global scale, is one of the highest per capita emitters and as a developed country, Australia needs to show leadership in this reduction.


Importance to animal health and welfare

In the past, Australia’s CVOs have led the eradication of three endemic cattle diseases, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis, a number of exotic horse diseases (e.g., equine influenza), and responded to many outbreaks of diseases in horses, poultry, pigs and wildlife some with severe repercussions for human health.  The latter disease outbreaks (e.g., Hendra virus) arose from Australian indigenous wildlife that are under increasing duress from habitat destruction and a changing environment from climate change, thus making transmission of pathogens to people and livestock more inevitable.


Preservation of the Australian natural environment and fragile ecosystems is essential to reduce the impact of changes in disease and disease vector distribution, as well as the emergence of new diseases (or re-emergence of old diseases) that impact on animals, and often on people.  Globally and in Australia 60-70% of newly emerged human diseases in recent decades have originated in animals and often as a result of habitat and/or ecosystem disruption bringing changes in the association/contact between humans and animal reservoirs of viruses.


National leadership and collective action is essential to reduce the carbon emissions that are fuelling climate change if the impacts on the planet generally, and on animals specifically, are to be ameliorated and rectified.  As veterinarians, our specific concerns relate to the very serious impacts that climate change is having on domestic livestock, indigenous wildlife, aquatic species and agricultural plant species.  For example, Australia has seen the extinction of more indigenous mammal wildlife species than any other country and the list of indigenous animals, birds and plants threatened with extinction is growing annually. Significantly, the ferocity of bushfires and droughts are being fuelled by climate change.


For decades Australia’s scientific community has been sounding the alarm on climate change.  It is clear and unambiguous that anthropogenic climate change is occurring and having a major adverse impact on our environment and lives.  We believe that sustained and urgent action based on the best available science and technology can reverse our current trajectory towards unsustainable and irreversible changes in climate.  For the sake of future generations, now is the time to heed the scientists’ call, similar to our response to the pandemic, to hasten our transition towards renewable energy and other emerging climate solutions.