Defra announces new Chief Veterinary Officer

Defra has announced that Christine Middlemiss has been appointed as the UK’s next Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), replacing Nigel Gibbens.

Mr Gibbens is stepping down at the end of February 2018 following 10 years in the post. Dr Middlemiss, who has held the role of CVO in New South Wales since, Australia, since August 2016, will commence her new role in March.

Dr Middlemiss, who has led major improvements to biosecurity across the farming sectors during her stint in Australia, comes from a farming family in the south of Scotland, with a background in beef cattle and sheep.

She will be returning to Defra where she worked as Deputy Director for Animal Traceability and Public Health in 2016. An experienced veterinarian, she worked for a number of years in private practice in Scotland and the north of England, prior to joining the Animal Health agency (now part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency) in 2008 as a Divisional Veterinary Manager in Scotland.

Dr Middlemiss said: “I am delighted to have been appointed and it will be a privilege to lead my veterinary colleagues to support our farming and food industry in this hugely important role.

“The UK Government has made no secret it wants to cement its place as a world-leader on animal welfare as they leave the European Union, and I’m delighted to have an opportunity to play a part in that.”

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Gardiner said Dr Middlemiss brings ‘a wealth of experience and enthusiasm’ to the role.

“This Government is embarking on an ambitious programme of animal welfare reform, including plans to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years in prison and introducing mandatory CCTV in all abattoirs. Christine will be invaluable in helping us in achieving world leading standards,” he said.

He thanked Mr Gibbens for his ‘outstanding contribution as CVO over the past ten years’. “Leaving the department at the end of February, he is hugely respected across the veterinary community and beyond – leading on responses to disease outbreaks including avian influenza and advising government on issues from antimicrobial resistance to animal welfare,” Lord Gardiner said.

Mr Gibbens, said: “I would like to congratulate Christine on her success against a strong field of candidates and I am certain she will be a great addition to the department.”

More reaction 

The NPA welcomed the announcement. Chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This is a good appointment. Christine has been very supportive of the pig industry, and, for example, was behind making PED notifiable in an industry partnership. She has worked at Defra before and has a good understanding of the industry.”

British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick said: “We’d like to congratulate Christine Middlemiss on her appointment as the UK’s next CVO and welcome her return to Defra – as well as to the UK.

“As Christine notes, she will take up her role amidst EU Exit negotiations when the vital role veterinary surgeons play in so many areas of political and public life must be championed and considered more than ever.

“The work of all vets in government is indispensable in protecting and promoting animal health and welfare and public health, and current UK CVO Nigel Gibbens CBE has been crucial in steering this with calm direction and sage insight from the heart of government.

“We hope to continue our effective working relationship with the new UK CVO, and really look forward the opportunity to work with Christine moving forwards.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.