EU vets must be guaranteed right to stay and work in UK to safeguard animal welfare says BVA
Tomorrow (27 June) the British Veterinary Association, in partnership with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, will hold a Brexit briefing on animal health, animal welfare, public health and the veterinary workforce in the House of Commons Thames Pavilion between 4pm and 6pm.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is the largest representative body for vets in the UK, and promotes evidence-led policy drawn from science and the expertise and experience of its 16,000 members working in all areas of the veterinary profession. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK and sets, upholds and advances veterinary standards, so as to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare.
Here BVA President, companion animal vet Gudrun Ravetz, outlines why it is vital that vets’ views are considered in Brexit negotiations:
Vets are involved in everything from the milk on your porridge to pet healthcare and public health services. Vets work in labs and lecture theatres; ensure food safety and hygiene; care for the UK’s hundreds of millions of animals; and play an active role in surveillance, protecting our herds and birds from disease. Official statistics put the value of UK livestock outputs at £13 billion, and not a penny of that could be realised without veterinary input.
The Defra Secretary of State, speaking to the Today programme last Monday, rightly acknowledged the importance of EU vets to the UK economy. Each year around 50% of vets registering to practice in the UK come from overseas, the vast majority from non-UK EU countries. In Government Veterinary Services, approximately 45% of posts are fulfilled by EU vets and in the meat hygiene sector it is estimated that 95% of the veterinary workforce is made up of overseas vets, mostly EU-graduates.
Yet figures released by the RCVS show that since Brexit two in five EU vets are more likely to leave the UK, with 18% actively looking for work elsewhere. The veterinary profession is relatively small, so the loss of even a small percentage of the workforce would have a significant impact on the UK’s ability to maintain animal health, animal welfare and public health.
That’s why BVA is calling for all EU vets and vet nurses currently in the UK to be guaranteed living and working rights. The loss of Official Veterinarians (OVs) from slaughterhouses, for example, would increase the risk of food fraud, provide the potential for animal welfare breaches, and remove a level of public health reassurance to consumers at home and overseas that could jeopardise UK trade.
Last month, BVA launched our ‘Brexit and the veterinary profession’ report, which sets out 52 short-, medium- and long-term policy recommendations that cover seven far-reaching areas of public policy: veterinary workforce, animal health, animal welfare, food hygiene and safety, veterinary medicines, research and development, and trade. Copies of the report will be available at our briefing (Thames Pavilion, 27 June from 4-6pm).
We can only make a success of Brexit if we harness our veterinary resource in clinical practice, public health, government services, academia and research. Our exit from the EU presents us with challenges and opportunities, and BVA is determined to work with Government to ensure we secure the best possible outcomes for animal health and welfare, and public health for the rest of society too.