World-renowned animal welfare advocate and respected local veterinarian DrHugh Wirth, AM, died on Monday after living with Parkinson’s disease for morethan a decade.
Dr Wirth is credited with numerous successful animal welfare campaignsincluding ending puppy tail docking and stopping the export of horses to Japanfor slaughter.
He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1985 and in 1997 wasnamedVictorian of the Year.
“Dr Hugh was a tireless worker and a forthright, strong leader who was notafraid to standup for what he believed was right,” RSPCA Victoria chiefexecutive Dr Liz Walker said.
“He was passionate, incredibly knowledgeable and tenacious. Dr Hugh was at theforefront of many of the improvements we have seen in animal welfare in mylifetime.”
The beloved vet bought Balwyn Veterinary Surgery in 1967 and practised therefor 47 years until he retired.
During this time, he became the first non-European president of World AnimalProtection and was the trusted resident vet on ABC Radio Melbourne’s Saturdaymorning show.
Dr Wirth was the president of RSPCA Victoria’s board from 1972 to 2015. He wasalso on the RSPCA Australia board for 35 years before stepping down due toailing health three years ago.
In 2012 he told The Age that he had to quit his his long-time position as aninspector at the Royal Melbourne Show because his illness meant he was nolonger so adept at dodging wayward cattle.
”I’m not dying or anything silly like that. I’m just not as good on my feet,”he said at the time.
The same year he released his autobiography, My Life with Animals.
The book documented Dr Wirth’s political battles with 1960s RSPCA stalwarts,the Australian Veterinary Association and governments.
In the book, he claimed the federal government gave in to a push to set up anAnimal Welfare Advisory Committee in 1980 when then conservation ministerVasey Houghton fell asleep in a meeting.
When he awoke, says Dr Wirth, Mr Houghton asked, ”Now, where were we?” towhich Dr Wirth said he and RSPCA colleague Peter Barber replied: ”Well,Minister, you just agreed to form the AWAC.”
RSCPA Victoria said despite his declining health, Dr Wirth remained involvedwith the organisation in recent years as its patron and as a member of itsAnimal Welfare Policy Committee.
“Dr Wirth leaves an incredible legacy,” Dr Walker said.
“RSPCA Victoria will treasure his memory and honour his work by continuing toadvocate for the continual advancement of animal welfare in our society.”
Source: The Age
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