Female #FoodHeroes

Roxane Feller

Roxane is the Secretary General of AnimalhealthEurope, in Brussels, Belgium.

What do you do?

I lead a team of technical, public affairs, and communications professionals working to ensure a strong voice for the European animal medicines industry when it comes to policy-making, legislation, and general awareness.
We aim to highlight the importance of both healthy pets and farm animals and to demonstrate the reliability and value of our solutions to society. By ensuring availability of animal health products throughout Europe, we can help optimise health management, while contributing to the sustainability of food production.

Why do you love your job?

Indeed, I do love my job! Here are 13 reasons why:

  1. Working in an international environment
  2. Travelling around Europe and the world (less often than Europe)
  3. Learning something new every day (a very technical sector with lots of details)
  4. Using my legal skills
  5. Opportunity to use my language skills
  6. Having great colleagues
  7. Meeting inspiring people
  8. Never knowing what my day will consist of – each day is different!
  9. Defending the interests of a respectable sector
  10. Working for a sector that includes animals
  11. Leading by example
  12. Influencing EU legislation (or at least trying to)
  13. Benefiting from a flexible work schedule to allow me to have a life

How did you get here?

One of life’s little accidents can lead you to something you never planned to do, but actually really enjoy! I arrived in Belgium having married a Belgian. My Swiss law degree wasn’t recognized in Belgium, so I couldn’t practice law!
I started as a stagiaire (trainee) in a trade association 28 years ago, moved on to another trade association representing farmers for 14 years, then went on to the food and drink association for 6 years, and then finally, I was asked to lead the animal health association four years ago.

What is your advice for young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming?

My motto has always been: lead by example. Young women should look at the stories of strong farming women. Or look at the women heading up the World Organisation for Animal Health (Monique Eloit) or in the running for the lead at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle). Any young women wanting to contribute to sustainable food and farming should not hesitate to act on that desire.

Women can do great things when they set their minds on it. Just believe in yourselves!

How does agriculture need to change to be fit for the future?

When I talk to our partners in the food chain I think there is an acknowledgement that there are certain issues. It’s a sector which is very keen to make changes and take on advances in technologies and practices, as long as there is recognition and support for these efforts.

For me, agriculture is already changing, it’s constantly evolving. We are moving steadily towards more circular thinking, but the sector cannot move into the future if barriers are set in its way. For agriculture to be fit for the future, change will also need to come from consumer demands, from governments, from society at large, with the support of international organisations.

What’s one challenge you face as a woman in agriculture and what do you think needs to be done to overcome this?

I have never experienced any challenges due to my sex, so I think it’s more agriculture and its input sectors as a whole that need to join together to face the challenges affecting the entire sector. Maybe it’s time for women in agriculture to be the strong voices, and take the lead to overcome any challenges that may arise.

Why is animal health important?

Animal medicines are just a link in the chain when it comes to agriculture as a whole, but if that link is removed then the chain is broken. If farmers can’t prevent diseases, ensure good hygiene, and diagnose diseases, then they cannot protect their animals against illnesses and ensure their welfare. If they cannot treat diseases or relieve pain and suffering, then any yields from their animals will be lost. So, my final words would be #AnimalHealthMatters!

Roxane is just one of many inspirational women working in agriculture. Visit our Female #FoodHeroes page to hear from other women working to improve plant science and nutrition.