Veterinary community must work together in challenging times ahead

British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Simon Doherty last night called for the workforce to pull together to navigate the difficult and unpredictable landscape ahead.

His call in his speech at BVA’s Annual London Dinner came amid mounting concerns that sections of the workforce may be facing a perfect storm of shortfalls in capacity coupled with a surge in demand for some veterinary services.  These impacts would be particularly severe in the event of a no-deal scenario, as it could bring increased requirements for certification of animals and animal products leaving and entering the UK, and extra health testing for pets travelling to and from the EU. 

Addressing over 80 guests at the dinner in Westminster, including Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Food and Animal Welfare David Rutley, England’s Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss, key representatives from animal health and welfare organisations and colleagues from across the veterinary profession, BVA’s President said:

“The veterinary profession may be relatively small, but it is also hugely diverse and influential.  Vets have high levels of public trust in our insights and expertise, and strong connections with our colleagues, clients and the communities we serve.  And, in these uncertain times, it’s more crucial than ever that the veterinary community pulls together to navigate the difficult landscape ahead and continue to provide the best possible standards of care.”

Doherty also paid tribute to the high proportion of EU vets working in England and across the UK, and warned that urgent action is needed now to guard against capacity shortfalls and maintain a flexible, skilled and robust workforce after Brexit.  He said: “We’re very fortunate to have many fantastic EU colleagues working in England and throughout the UK, and it’s incumbent on us all to make sure that veterinary capacity is maintained whatever the next few months hold. 

“Be in no doubt, we are at crisis point now and need to avoid a cliff edge. If you take one thing away with you today, please support and share our calls for vets to be reinstated on the Shortage Occupation List.  This would give a critical vote of confidence in the veterinary workforce and the multiple benefits it realises, and help to safeguard against a post-Brexit crisis in capacity.”

Later in the speech, Doherty paid tribute to vets, stakeholders and the wider public for helping to amplify its campaigning activity across key animal welfare issues.  He described the recent push for animal sentience to be embedded in legislation as a campaign that “captured the hearts and minds of the profession and wider public on a fundamental principle of animal welfare”, and called on the Government to act quickly to bring the principle into law, saying:

“Parliamentary time may be tighter than ever before, but here was an opportunity to make the UK’s status as a global leader on animal welfare resoundingly clear.  We are in talks with Defra to find a solution, and as the clock ticks down we will continue to keep momentum up and engage our members and stakeholders in this vital campaign.”

Doherty also updated dinner guests on the campaign for a ban on non-stun slaughter, which has seen BVA joining forces with the RSPCA in recent weeks.  He said: “This year our campaign for a ban on non-stun slaughter is gaining new ground, as we work with allies to make a strong case for ending the unnecessary suffering of millions of animals. 

“We are pushing for clearer labelling to help consumers make informed choices about the meat they eat, and calling for greater transparency in the numbers of animals receiving no stun or not being stunned effectively prior to slaughter.” 

Doherty also showcased successes from BVA’s recent campaigning work around responsible pet ownership.  He marked the anniversary of the Breed to Breathe campaign, which raises awareness of the often life-limiting health issues suffered by flat-faced dogs, cats and rabbits, and hailed the success of the recent Pets in Advertising guidelines, which challenge brands to ensure that they use healthy breeds in all forms of media and portray them in situations where their welfare needs are clearly met

The BVA President ended his speech by thanking BVA staff, members and all stakeholders who support and champion the veterinary community.  He said: “It’s going to be a busy and challenging year, but I’m excited by the part that we all have to play in ensuring that animal welfare remains front and centre in the months ahead.”

David Rutley responded to the speech as BVA’s Guest of Honour.

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