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'Crushingly disappointing' that animal sentience is not yet law, says BVA President

British Veterinary Association

4 min read Partner content

BVA President, Daniella Dos Santos, calls on all parties to keep up the pressure and give the "crucial principle" of animal sentience it's final push into law.

Speaking at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Parliamentary Briefing and Afternoon Tea recently in the House of Commons, Ben Lake MP called on parliamentarians to get involved with the BVA saying they were a "a font of knowledge and advice and assistance" in today’s "hurly-burly world".

The MP for Ceredigion stated that in the current climate, "having the ability to fall back on the wealth of expertise and experience that the BVA offers is quite invaluable".

At the event, BVA President, Daniella Dos Santos, called on all parties to include ten key commitments in their manifestos ahead of the General Election.

The briefing focused on the impact of Brexit on the veterinary workforce, trade, animal health and welfare, food safety, pet travel, veterinary medicines and agriculture.

“It is fabulous to see cross party representation here to hear about the workforce and veterinary issues that matter to our 18,000 members”, stated Ms Dos Santos.

Brexit impact

"We’ve drawn together the most pressing topical things that matter to our members, unsurprisingly, Brexit has taken the top slot," said the BVA President.

"Given the far-reaching opportunities and challenges it could present to the UK’s veterinary community in the months and years ahead.

"Last month, BVA’s council voted to take a stance that a no-deal Brexit would have serious consequences for our workforce, for animal health and welfare.

"With the clock ticking down, we remain deeply concerned about the many unknowns around the scale and scope and impacts on our colleagues, our clients and those animals under our care.

"Vets have a vital role to play in certifying animals and animal products leaving and entering the UK. But, the profession is already experiencing shortages, and could be stretched to breaking point if we see a significant increase in the volume of products that require certification in the no-deal situation," cautioned Daniella Dos Santos.

Alongside this, the BVA President warned of the new pet travel requirements under a no-deal, which could lead to a surging demand in small animal vets to carry our rabies vaccination and testing and issue certificates prior to every journey being made.

Ms Dos Santos emphasised the reliance on EU vets in the UK veterinary workforce, especially in abattoirs where 95% of official veterinarians hail from outside the UK.

"Any changes in capacity could have serious consequences for animal health, welfare and if abattoirs are unable to cope with current volumes, this could lead to overstocking of livestock on farms," she warned.

Northern Ireland

The BVA’s president said the organisation was concerned about how a no-deal Brexit would impact Northern Ireland, given its large agri-foods sector and the steady flow of goods from both sides of the border.

"While we know a lot of work is going on to boost veterinary capacity, the demand for certification for animals and animal products is likely to spiral far beyond that predicted in the rest of the UK."

Beyond Brexit

Beyond Brexit, the BVA’s manifesto outlined key asks that the organisation sees as fundamental to improving the health and welfare of animals across the animal kingdom.

One of the most pressing calls is for the principle of animal sentience to be finally enshrined into legislation.

"We were pleased that sentience got a mention in last week’s background briefing to the Queen’s Speech, but it is crushingly disappointing this fundamental principle of animal welfare has yet to make it into law after such a long standing and concerted campaign.

"Finding the means to bring sentience into law, without further delay, would give the government a golden opportunity to make the UKs status as a global leader in animal health and welfare resoundingly clear.”

"We call on all parties to keep up the pressure and give this crucial principle its final push it needs to get over the line and into law," stated Ms Dos Santos.

Welfare at Slaughter

Welfare at slaughter is another issue that continues to be a concern to BVA members, particularly non-stun slaughter.

The BVA President called on parliamentarians to support this campaign.

Over the past twelve months, the BVA has pushed further its campaign for clear and relevant labelling of products’ slaughter method, to help customers make informed decisions about the meat they buy and eat.

Puppy farms

The BVA are also calling on all parties to support the call for legislation to be strengthened against illegal imports of puppies for sale.

"As a nation of animal lovers, it is simply unacceptable that criminals are still getting away with this cruel and exploitative trade."

The BVA President concluded with a message to parliamentarians to get to know their local veterinary practices, and "see them as a way to get positive messages about animal health and welfare out to your constituents".

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