The British Veterinary Association has welcomed calls by a House of Lords EU Committee for the Government to protect the UK livestock industry from cheap, lower standard meat imports in new post-Brexit trade deals.
The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee report Brexit: farm animal welfare also urged the Government to take steps to ensure that the veterinary industry is able to access qualified staff after we leave the EU. It found ‘an overwhelming reliance on non-UK EU citizens to fill crucial official veterinary positions in the UK’ and noted that the agricultural sector employs ‘significant numbers of temporary and permanent farm workers’.
BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said: “The report offers strong leadership and a clear message, emphasising the consumer and cross-sector consensus that current animal health and welfare standards must be at least maintained in Brexit negotiations.
“Prioritising these standards in trade negotiations could guarantee a unique selling point for the UK. As the report recommends, as consumers we must make sure we do not compromise quality for cost-savings in order to avoid a race to the bottom for welfare standards. We now need clarity from the Government on how underpinning processes and overarching principles, like Article 13 which ensures animal welfare requirements are fully considered in policy-setting, will be incorporated into domestic law.
“The report supports our view that animal welfare should be considered a public good and we reiterate our calls following the Secretary of State’s recent speech that a replacement CAP scheme should encompass animal welfare, animal health, disease surveillance, biodiversity and environmental stewardship to benefit not only UK producers, but consumers and wider society too.
“The EU Committee’s recognition of the vital role vets play in animal health, welfare and public health is extremely encouraging. Official Veterinarians (OVs) working in abattoirs protect and reassure UK consumers, certifying and supervising the import and export of animals and animal products to third countries. As I outlined in my evidence to the Committee, some estimates suggest 95% of OVs working in UK abattoirs graduated overseas, mostly in the EU. However, we are already hearing of fewer applicants for veterinary public health roles since the Referendum.
“There are significant concerns about the potential impact of a post-Brexit veterinary workforce shortage on the UK’s £100 billion agri-food sector, in terms of risking business and consumer confidence as well as the UK’s future export capability. A strong, sustainable veterinary workforce is absolutely vital to safeguarding animal health, welfare and public health post Brexit.”