The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called on the government to work with the veterinary profession to “ensure that workforce capacity meets demand” and “animal health and welfare standards remain high” post-Brexit.
In a speech at the BVA’s annual dinner, the associations president, Daniella Dos Santos asked the government’s commitment that food which lower animal health and welfare standards “would not be imported” as part of future trade deals.
Dos Santos said the media was “obsessed” with chlorine-washed chicken, she added: “ It certainly makes a good headline. But we mustn’t allow it to distract from the grim realities about the animal welfare compromises that could be imported to the UK.
“I hope that tonight we can all agree that our reputation relies on not allowing animal health and welfare to be compromised at any cost.”
She has appealed to the government to work with the veterinary profession after Boris Johnson confirmed a set of negotiating priorities that would mean animals and products exported from the UK into the EU single market would need veterinary certification and checks.
She said: “This could spark a surge in demand on our members’ capacity, and really underlines the need for a multi-pronged and multi-stakeholder approach to ensure we have a flexible and future-proofed veterinary workforce for the years to come.”
Dos Santos also welcomed efforts to increase vet school places and widen access to help boost levels of vets studying in the UK, but cautioned that these needed to be matched with increased per capita funding.
She added: “It’s estimated that the cost of equipping students with the skills they need to qualify is £20,000 per student, per year of study. The reality is that tuition fees and government funding don’t come close to matching these costs. And this gap will widen still further if funding levels stay static but need to be spread across higher numbers of students.”