The UK and Irish veterinary and farming worlds join forces this May with the aim of raising £50,000 for the international development charity Send A Cow. Activities include a Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle ride, a cycling and walking relay across Britain from The Wash to Aberystwyth, and the Chief Vets climbing 850metre-high Slieve Donard, the highest peak in Northern Ireland.
The initiative is the brainchild of Andrew Cobner (pictured), president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, and is part of celebrations marking the organisation’s 50th anniversary. The money is being raised in memory of former member and lecturer Andrew Madel from the Royal Veterinary College, who inspired generations of farm animal vets and championed the work of Send a Cow until he died in 2013.
Andrew Cobner says: “Send A Cow is a charity that many in the farming industry have supported over the years, helping families in Africa produce food sustainably. We now have a virtual ‘Andrew Madel herd’ that we can keep adding animals to thanks to the supporters of our fund-raising activities.”
The key event Andrew is involved with – the cycle relay from Land’s End to John O’Groats – starts on 7 May. He says that while over 30 vets, farmers and friends are participating at various stages on the 950-mile ride, he was persuaded to commit to the whole distance even though he hadn’t cycled for nearly 40 years and then never further than five miles.
“The training is going well and it does show the power of mind over matter!” he says. “I’m sure that on the ride itself, I will be buoyed up by all the friends and colleagues that will join in at different stages – including the UK Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens, who is joining me for the first four days.
“In the 50 years of BCVA we have worked with many organisations throughout the veterinary and agricultural industry and it’s incredible to think that so many of those organisations will be represented in these activities.”
Since Andrew announced the idea, offers of other fund-raising ideas have snowballed.
“The Chief Vet for Wales, Christianne Glossop, said she would ‘walk across Wales’ to support the effort; with the participation of some enthusiastic cycling vets from the Midlands, this has turned into the cycling and walking relay across England and Wales from east to west,” says Andrew.
“Christianne is also joining the Chief Vets for the UK, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – Nigel, Sheila Voas, Robert Huey and Martin Blake respectively – to climb Slieve Donard on 18 May. This is the first time the four UK Chief Vets have met together with the Irish Chief Vet, and it’s a fitting show of unity at a time when the British and Irish Lions are gearing up for their New Zealand tour.
“Furthermore, 18 May is the same day our cycle relay arrives in Inverness, and meets up with renowned Devon vet, wildlife photographer and kayaker Rupert Kirkwood at the completion of his kayak along the 23 miles of Loch Ness to raise more funds.”
Andrew explains that a host of vet practices and BCVA members around the country are organising local events by running, cycling, rowing or walking 50 miles for 50 years of BCVA. Others around the world are also taking part with vets in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand running events.
The money raised will support Send a Cow’s work with smallholder farmers in some of the poorest parts of Africa. Founded by West Country dairy farmers in the late 1980s, the charity provides training, tools, seeds and livestock so that families can grow their own food and lift themselves out of poverty for good.
“Send A Cow is a fantastic charity helping families out of poverty and giving them a sustainable means of food production. It helps them to become more resilient in the face of the inevitable challenges that they face,” adds Andrew.
For more information go to the BCVA website www.bcva.eu and click on the ‘Send a Cow’ logo to find out more about the activities and their relevant fundraising pages; alternatively, text the amount you want to donate as ‘BCVA50 £xxx’ to 70070. Photos and updates of the various activities will be posted on Twitter using the #BCVA50 hashtag.