Brexit: farm animal welfare Contents

Chapter 4: Veterinary staff

The role of veterinarians

60.Veterinarians play a key role in ensuring that farm animal welfare standards are upheld, as Ms Ravetz explained: “Vets work with and support local farmers to meet standards, and Official Veterinarians, working in abattoirs in particular, play an essential role in maintaining animal health and welfare and making sure that animals are slaughtered humanely.”116

61.Reflecting on the likely change in UK-EU trading relations, the BVA noted that “Many countries require veterinary certification of food safety … before animal shipment”, adding that “Post-Brexit all EU countries are likely to be regarded as Third Countries for the purposes of exports and imports”.117 Therefore, they argued, there could be “increased demand for veterinary certification and supervision, which would require more [Official Veterinarians] than are currently employed in the sector”. We note the BVA’s call for a “major review of current UK capacity for Third Country Certification” as an “early priority to ensure the UK can facilitate trade post-Brexit”.118 It was supported by Richard Griffiths, Chief Executive of the BPC: “The veterinary oversight of trade issues … is crucial.”119

Non-UK EU nationals

62.There may be a greater need for veterinarians after Brexit, yet Ms Ravetz told us that “over 90% of our Official Veterinarians are non-UK EU 27 citizens. That is a concerning number, because these are people who are working for our animal health and welfare, particularly in our abattoirs, and this has a knock-on effect for food safety and hygiene.”120

63.In written evidence, the BVA noted: “Without non-UK EU vets, there may not be enough appropriately qualified vets to meet workforce needs which would have a significant effect on animal health and welfare, public health and trade.”121 NFU Scotland also pointed to the many inspection and enforcement services undertaken by vets, noting that “many of these services do rely heavily on vets who have migrated from countries within the EU”.122 They were therefore “seeking assurances on any new immigration controls recognising the needs of the industry in this regard”.

64.As we noted in our report Brexit: agriculture, non-UK EU nationals are also essential workers in abattoirs and on farms.123 The NPA raised similar concerns: “Stockmanship is key to livestock productivity and good animal welfare. Availability of good stockpeople, veterinary input and development of skills will impact animal welfare post-Brexit.”124 They told us: “Our own survey found that half of the pig businesses employed at least one permanent migrant worker, and considering most farms are still small and only have 2–3 staff, this could mean losing half the workforce and the likely closure of the business.” Therefore, they concluded, “Government must ensure that agriculture has access to the migrant workers it is so reliant on.”

65.Mr Stocker raised concerns about abattoirs specifically, noting that “The work that we have done shows that something in the region of 75% of our abattoir workers are migrant workers, and the sector relies on those levels of workers.”125 He added:

“We rely on these people, and if we do not have them any more and if that stock could not be processed in this country we could end up relying on our export trade even more, which would push the adding of value to our sheep overseas, prevent us adding value here on our home shores … We rely very heavily on migrants.”

Conclusion

66.Veterinarians play a key role in ensuring and inspecting farm animal health and welfare in the UK from farm to abattoir. They also play an important role in certifying animals in the context of trade. We note the overwhelming reliance on non-UK EU citizens to fill crucial official veterinary positions in the UK, and call on the Government to ensure that the industry is able to retain or recruit qualified staff to fill these roles post-Brexit.


117 Written evidence from BVA (AWF0020)

118 Written evidence from BVA (AWF0020)

119 Q 16 (Richard Griffiths)

121 Written evidence from BVA (AWF0020)

122 Written evidence from NFU Scotland (AWF0009)

123 European Union Committee Brexit: agriculture (20th Report, Session 2016–17, HL Paper 169), para 266

124 Written evidence from NPA (AFW0023)




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