Agriculture is vital to Scotland's economy. The livestock industry alone supports just under 35,000 jobs and contributes £1.6 billion worth of output. But that's not all, the quality of agricultural produce underpins Scotland's aspiration to be a Good Food Nation, and its stewardship of the land helps maintain Scotland's world famous landscape.
Delivering these benefits requires hard work and knowledge, and for livestock farmers the most crucial skills are those needed to care for their animals.
Scotland is justly renowned for its high standard of animal husbandry. The routine work needed to look after livestock is often unnoticed, but it is essential and is carried out with dedication by farmers the length and breadth of the country.
We can be proud of Scotland's record on animal health and welfare. But in an increasingly competitive market we need to use what has been achieved so far as a springboard to enhance the country's reputation for quality produce and proficient husbandry.
Delivering improvements in animal health and welfare is not a job for just one agency or group. Government, industry, enforcement agencies, retailers and each of us as consumers have a part to play.
That is why this strategy has been prepared in consultation with farming organisations, animal welfare organisations and scientists, and I am taking this opportunity to thank them for their contribution. Stakeholders will also have a central role in implementing the range of actions it sets out. Those actions include steps to improve the way animal health messages are communicated, to increase knowledge exchange and to strengthen information flow up and down the supply chain.
I am pleased to be able to present this strategy as the next stage on a journey toward a Scotland where the high standards of animal health and welfare in the livestock industry are one of the foundation stones of Scotland's reputation for high quality and ethical produce.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment