Stephen Delahunty explores how Britain’s departure from the EU increases demand for vets, as their numbers decline
More than a dozen food, agriculture, veterinary and environmental health associations have called for a “mutual veterinary deal with the EU” to address a shortage of veterinarians that could lead to a shortage of animal products.
With supermarket shelves empty, the government has been accused of ‘kicking the box’ as the shortfall threatens to put additional pressure on already stretched supply chains with the introduction of agri-food controls to the UK border from next year.
UK post-Brexit trade deals mean all exports of food of animal origin require inspection and certification by a veterinarian, increasing the demand for vets to sign export health certificates to move animals. animals or meat between the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the European Union. .
This applies to whole lamb carcasses as well as to a batch of Hawaiian pizzas. At the same time, the number of EU vets arriving to work in Britain, which has traditionally filled the shortage of UK-trained vets, has declined significantly.
The number of EU vets registered to work in the UK has fallen to just 20 people per month, in previous years that figure would have been closer to 80 or 100.
Signing time reported last month how the national shortage has already impacted the pet industry and the more than 3.2 million households that acquired a new animal during the pandemic.
DO YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE ?
HELP US PRODUCE MORE
Receive the monthly Signing time journal and help support fearless, independent journalism that shatters stories, shapes the agenda and holds power accountable.
We are not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, subscribe.
This has led some vets to close their practices to new pets, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), while some private practices have told clients they cannot recruit equine vets, meaning they can no longer provide services to people with horses.
But the BVA has also warned that there is a smaller group of fully qualified veterinarians needed to inspect animals and sign relevant documents.
The government has said that the Animal and Plant Health Agency has plans to increase its administrative efficiency, but the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) is concerned that despite the dramatic drop in trade volumes of a year on year, the agency is already struggling to meet demand. .
The BMPA is a member of the SPS Certification Working Group, a collaboration of various food and animal suppliers who are trying to reduce post-Brexit trade friction. The group’s research found that the UK’s “third country” trade status with the EU has led to a number of additional requirements, including sanitary and phytosanitary controls.
The burden of the new controls has led to a sharp drop in imports and exports, with members of the task force reporting a drop in exports of £ 9bn and imports of over £ 17bn in the first quarter of This year.
Take jobs or create jobs?The impact of Brexit On wages
Earlier this month, Northern Ireland’s Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots echoed similar concerns expressed by the BVA by announcing a formal assessment of the need for veterinarians in the country.
Poots said Brexit-related checks could reach 25,000 per week. As a result, the BMPA and others called on the government to review inspection and certification requirements and negotiate some form of mutual veterinary agreement with the EU that would reduce problems of food and animal trade. feed between UK, Northern Ireland and EU.
Agri-food controls at the UK border were supposed to be in place on October 1, but they were delayed until July of next year and the BVA accused the government of ‘kicking the box’ over this. question.
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had taken a number of steps to ease pressure on the market and the Home Secretary agreed to treat EU veterinarians and d ‘other countries as a profession in shortage, allowing qualified veterinarians to come to Britain.
A spokesperson added: ‘Veterinarians play a crucial role in maintaining food safety in the UK and in upholding our high animal welfare standards. Two new veterinary schools, Surrey and Harper Adams, have recently opened, which will allow many more British vets graduates to practice from 2025. “
James Russell, president of the BVA, admitted “that there is no quick fix here”.
“The government has reported new veterinary schools in the UK, but it takes five years to train to be a veterinarian. In the shorter term, we are working hard as a sector to increase retention, but the additional pressures created by Brexit and the pandemic are exacerbating shortages, ”he said.
The problem is so serious that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has called a workforce summit next month to address continuing concerns about staff shortages and the lack of additional capacity to meet demand for veterinary services. .
OUR JOURNALISM COUNTS ON YOU
Signing time is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help support independent and fearless journalism.
Thank you for reading this article
New to Signing time? Please find more information about us here
SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION
A new kind of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund better media.
Don’t miss a story …
Our main investigations include Brexit, the Empire and the Culture Wars, Russian meddling, the coronavirus, cronyism and far-right radicalization. We’re also introducing new color voices in Our Lives Matter.