Following the vote to leave the EU last June, the President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) highlighted how retaining the roles vets play in animal health, animal welfare and public health is pivotal to securing successful outcomes from Brexit.
Whilst addressing key influencers at the BVA's annual London Dinner yesterday (7 February), President Gudrun Ravetz also previewed a new campaign, 'I support team vet', which launches today and champions the value of veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and the wider veterinary team.
Ms Ravetz said, "The veterinary family – which is my focus as BVA President – is part of the international scientific community, and we are a diverse profession with far-reaching influence and impact in so many areas of political and public life ... A healthy veterinary workforce is vital for UK animal and human health."
The residence and working rights of UK-based EU vets is a priority in forthcoming Brexit negotiations, the BVA President highlighted these issues in her speech, "The UK veterinary profession relies heavily on EU graduates, who have felt the impact of the EU referendum result since day one … In the meat hygiene sector alone, some estimates suggest 95% of veterinary surgeons graduated overseas.
"That’s why our first action after 23 June was to call on UK governments to protect the status of EU veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses currently living and working in the UK. It was encouraging to see some of these key priorities … make it into the Prime Minister’s list of negotiating priorities. But we have said from the outset that our members need certainty and reassurance, so we urge the Government to make that firm commitment now.”
On the veterinary profession’s approach to Brexit, the BVA President emphasised, "We know vets remain nervous about the changes to come, with many of our members concerned about the threat Brexit poses for UK animal health and welfare … Yet we can also see the opportunities Brexit presents, and BVA is determined to work with the Government to seize these opportunities, where they exist, to improve standards."
In terms of the opportunities Brexit could offer to improve animal health and welfare, Ms Ravetz suggested tightening up of the Pet Travel Scheme to combat the illegal puppy imports.
Ms Ravetz concluded, "We can only make a success of Brexit if we harness our veterinary resource in clinical practice, public health, government services, conservation, academia, research and industry. We are a small profession but our impact is significant."
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity Lord Gardiner of Kimble responded to the BVA President’s speech, "Veterinary professionals across the UK do such crucial work helping to protect against the threat of disease, caring for our beloved pets and underpinning our food and farming industry.
"In my role at Defra I am continually reminded of the importance of the relationship between vets and government - most recently in tackling the outbreak of Avian Influenza in the UK. Your thoughts and ideas are invaluable as we manage the many opportunities and challenges posed by exiting the European Union, ensure the highest standards of animal welfare, protect the country from new animal disease threats, and attract the brightest and best into the profession.
"I look forward to continuing to work closely together as we push ahead with our plans to create a world leading food and farming industry based on high standards of animal health and welfare."
To show your support for #TeamVet, get your free 'I support team vet' badges by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and use #teamvet on social media.