Brexit: what will it mean for farmers and vets? Who knows? The future is so uncertain at the moment that we can only speculate on the impact the Brexit will have on farming, the veterinary profession and animal welfare.
As a practice that is so closely involved with our local farming community, we at Alnorthumbria will take a very keen interest as the dust settles and the future becomes clearer.
The EU subsidises UK farming to the tune of 3.5billion Euros a year. Will the UK Government continue this level of subsidy? If so, will it be targeted more heavily at intensive farming, or at more extensive units that are deemed better for animal welfare and the environment?
There are 17 EU laws that set standards on the way that farm animals are produced, transported and slaughtered. Will the UK Government replace these with similar legislation, or even try to set higher standards, for instance by banning live exports, introducing CCTV in all slaughterhouses, or banning slaughter without pre-stunning? Or will the need to strike trade deals with countries that do not have such high animal welfare standards force a reduction?
Will we be able to maintain co-operation with other European countries in areas such as disease surveillance, registration of new veterinary medicines and ensuring appropriate use of medicines, particularly with respect to antimicrobial resistance?
What about funding research in animal diseases and welfare? Will the current EU funding be replaced by national funding?
Many farms employ workers from other EU countries. If they are no longer able to come to the UK, who will replace them?
Veterinary practices also employ vets from other EU countries. Those that are currently here will hopefully be allowed to stay, but it will not be so easy to employ EU vets in future.
Indeed, some of their qualifications may no longer be recognised in the UK. There is already a shortage of vets. Are we going to be able to train more ‘home-grown’ vets to make up the shortfall?
One other issue is the Pet Passport Scheme. Will the UK continue to be part of this, or will we revert to the quarantine laws which preceded it?
These are only some of the uncertainties facing us; I’m sure there are many more which I haven’t thought of.
By Paul Freeman, Vet