Migrant vet uncertainty raises questions for UK herd health
The health of the UK’s pig herd could be put at risk unless the country’s government moves to protect the status of foreign veterinarians working there, a leading vet says.
Gudrun Ravetz, president of the British Veterinary Association, said there is uncertainty over the future of foreign veterinary workers once the UK leaves the European Union (EU).
And if Brexit negotiations resulted in restrictions on people moving to the UK, the effects could be disastrous for the country’s livestock sector, she warns.
Giving evidence to the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment sub-committee inquiry on UK animal welfare post-Brexit (5 April), Ravetz said that more than 90% of UK veterinary workers come from EU countries.
What’s more, more than 40% of new veterinary surgeons registering each year are from the EU’s 26 other member states.
Anything that put their ability to work in the UK in jeopardy will threaten livestock producers’ — including pig farmers’ — access to skilled veterinary support, and risk disease outbreaks becoming more frequent and more severe, she added.
“There are a very large number of people working in animal health and welfare who are from non-UK, EU countries,” she told the committee.
“Anything which affects their status here could have a serious knock-on effect for food safety, as well as animal hygiene and health.
“Vets have a vital role in animal health, welfare and disease identification,” she said. “It is their knowledge and surveillance skills which mean that diseases can be spotted and treated quickly.”
Ravetz said the UK government now needs to create policies to assure international vets that they can remain in the country.
Negotiations around the UK’s exit from the EU also need to support producers so they can continue to uphold the country’s strong animal health and welfare standards.
“The focus post-Brexit has to be around making sure health and welfare standards aren’t diluted,” she said. “Remembering the importance of [international] vets has to be part of that.”