Post-Brexit cooperation essentail for animal health and welfare, says BVA

Posted On: 
19th October 2017

Continued cooperation to ensure the unique relationships, structures and movements that straddle the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border was the focus of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) annual Northern Ireland dinner, held at Stormont on Thursday (19 October).

Simon Doherty, BVA Junior Vice President (JVP) and Northern Ireland vet, delivered the BVA President’s speech on behalf of BVA President John Fishwick who was unable to attend due to back surgery.

Simon opened his address by highlighting the BVA’s special consideration for Northern Ireland in its Brexit lobbying. He said:

“BVA’s ‘Brexit and the veterinary profession’ report has a dedicated chapter on [Northern Ireland’s unique position]: the strong cross-border relationships; the integrated North-South structures within agriculture … the movements of people, livestock and pets that take place each day.

“We are lobbying the UK Government on these pressing issues and actively working to help find solutions. Yesterday, we met with Veterinary Ireland colleagues to discuss what can be done within the veterinary profession to achieve the best possible results for animal health and welfare, public health and our profession too.”

In the speech, delivered to the dinner’s 70 guests, Simon outlined the impact of Brexit on individual vets and vet nurses as well as on the veterinary profession as a whole: from the myriad pieces of animal health and welfare legislation, to the ongoing availability and efficacy of veterinary medicines. Emphasising that approximately 50% of new vets registering with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon (RCVS) each year come from the EU, he said:

“Currently, each year University College Dublin trains a significant number veterinary graduates from Northern Ireland, many of whom return home after qualifying. The impact of the loss of even a small percentage of the veterinary workforce could have serious repercussions on the practices and communities they serve. We will be looking to the Northern Ireland, UK and Irish governments to consult on how best to ensure that the provision of professional services and trade across the Irish border is not disrupted.”

Outlining the veterinary profession’s recommendations to ensure standards of animal health and welfare are maintained in Northern Ireland, Simon said:

“Excellence in animal health is evident in Northern Ireland and the achievement, in May, of BSE Negligible Risk Status is testament to the years of hard work and joined up efforts of government working with industry, farmers and vets. At present, there is an all-island approach taken to surveillance and the control of animal disease … and it is crucial that this cooperation across the border, to improve animal health and welfare, continues post-Brexit. 

On forging future trade deals, Simon said:

“The vital role that veterinary surgeons currently fulfil to enable trade in animals and animal products – from abattoirs to certification and controls - must also be recognised and preserved in order to protect animal health, safeguard animal welfare and ensure consumer confidence moving forwards.”

Simon outlined vets’ vital roles in other areas including agriculture, public health and tackling the “serious global health problem” of antimicrobial resistance. He explained that all of varying roles are brought together under the current BVA President’s theme for the year, ‘Team vet: working together.’ The BVA JVP said:

“Team working comes through all levels of the veterinary profession, from in practice, to vets working together in food safety or government teams, and at national level in our lobbying and through our work with the Chief Veterinary Officer.”

Simon concluded by paying thanks to, and highlighting achievements of BVA Northern Ireland Branch, including establishing Vet Support NI. He paid tribute to Jean Wales, who passed away in June and would have been Branch President at this year’s dinner, and said:

“In January, Jean was elected to the presidency of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association and of the NI Branch of BVA. She had a drive to do everything as well as she possibly could, setting a gold standard for the rest of us to aspire to. Jean was selfless in going the extra mile to represent and help others. She is sorely missed.”

BVA's annual NI dinner, hosted by Robin Swann MLA, was attended by key representatives of animal health and welfare organisations and the agri-food industry, media, and senior members of the veterinary profession. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Permanent Secretary Noel Lavery responded to the BVA's speech.