Dr Christian Rowan MP, the State Member for Moggill, has called on the Palaszczuk Labor Government to urgently convene a series of high-level meetings to resolve the Hendra virus crisis in Queensland’s horse industry.
Dr Rowan said the Workplace Health and Safety prosecutions of three veterinary surgeons meant equine vets effectively had their hands tied.
“Sick, unvaccinated horses can no longer be treated until exclusion tests are done, horses are facing unprecedented welfare issues, and horse owners are blaming vets in this impasse being fuelled by an ill-informed anti-vaccine social media campaign,” he said.
“Horses are suffering because treatments are being delayed while vets are being forced to work with significantly increased risk to their personal safety or else treat vaccinated horses only because they now fear prosecution under the Worksafe Act.
“It’s a terrible plight which is damaging Queensland’s valuable equine industry and the government needs to show leadership.”
Dr Rowan called on the Agriculture, Health and Racing Ministers to convene an urgent stakeholders’ meeting in Brisbane, followed by meetings in key regional centres including Toowoomba, Nambour, Bundaberg,Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.
“Many horse vets were refusing to treat horses not vaccinated against Hendra for fear of facing fines of up to $600,000 and five years’ jail.
“The problem is, no vet can say for certain if any sick horse is infected with Hendra without an exclusion test being carried out and tests can take days for the results to come back.
“In the meantime, if the horse hasn’t been vaccinated, vets are forced to assume it is infected and Biosecurity Queensland guidelines make invasive treatment impossible.”
Dr Rowan said there was a very strong case for the government to step-in and put a stay on the prosecutions proceeding until the impasse had been sorted out.
“Common sense needs to prevail to allow vets to do their job properly without fear of unfair prosecution.
“This stand-off is a major animal welfare issue with some unvaccinated horses having to wait days for proper treatment and obviously in the overwhelming majority of cases these are horses that do not have Hendra Virus.”