The challenges posed by Brexit to the veterinary profession and public were amongst the topics under the spotlight at the Veterinary Ireland Annual Conference & AGM on Friday 23rd November, 2018 in Lyrath, Kilkenny. The Annual Conference & AGM was officially opened by Andrew Doyle T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine.
David MacGuinness, incoming President of Veterinary Ireland, paid tribute to the role of Temporary Veterinary Inspectors who work in Irish meat plants all over the country, describing them as the cornerstone of the Irish meat export industry. "The TVI inspection certified by veterinary surgeons provides important consumer assurances around animal welfare and food safety. This, together with the excellent herd health and disease control on Irish farms, gives Irish meat products an important edge over our competitors in the global market place," said David.
The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine stopped recruiting for TVI panels in 2012. At its Annual Conference & AGM in Kilkenny, Veterinary Ireland called on the Department to re-open TVI panels, based on ensuring that the correct operational procedures are in place across all meat plants; and based on offering new Temporary Veterinary Inspectors who join the panel, the same employment terms and conditions as all existing TVI’s.
Veterinary Ireland President David MacGuinness also highlighted concerns that a blanket recruitment drive for veterinary surgeons to maintain potential ‘Brexit’ border checks could drain professionals from veterinary practices who provide important services to farmers, pet owners and sectors such as the equine industry.
"The future of Brexit is totally unpredictable at present," said David MacGuinness. "If Brexit does occur and border checks of any form are required for animal movement, we would encourage the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine to consider a structure such as the TVI workforce be mobilised, to help permanent Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine officials to carry out their duties."
David MacGuinness explained that a TVI- type structure would alleviate the need for the Department to employ more permanent veterinary staff. "This expert veterinary workforce could work in conjunction with private veterinary practice, reducing the potential drain of veterinary surgeons from important practice work throughout the regions to service the Brexit border checks for animal movement."
Simon Doherty is President of The British Veterinary Association (BVA), which represents over 16,000 veterinary professionals throughout the UK. At the Veterinary Ireland Annual Conference, he described how the BVA has looked at the potential implications of Brexit for the veterinary profession and the agricultural and animal health industries.
The British Veterinary Association’s approach to Brexit is that existing animal health, animal welfare, public health, veterinary medicines, workforce and environmental protection standards must at least be maintained at the same level, or a level equivalent to current EU standards.
The extensive BVA report on ‘Brexit and the Veterinary Profession’ sets out some 52 recommendations. This includes the need for DAERA and Department of Agriculture Food & the Marine co-operation across the border to continually improve animal health and welfare with an all-island approach.
Simon Doherty described the representation that BVA has given in response to numerous Brexit-related consultations. The BVA recommendations deal with wide-ranging issues such as veterinary surveillance and disease notification, food hygiene standards, access to veterinary medicines, maximum residue limits, research standards, equine identification, the Pet Travel Scheme and recognition of veterinary qualifications.
More recently, the BVA has sought to respond in the event of a ‘no deal Brexit’, where there was a clear impact on the veterinary profession, animal health or animal welfare. The widespread potential issues range from the UK losing access to the EU disease surveillance system, restrictions to the movement of horses and the trade impact on animals and animal products moving from the UK to the single market – such as physical checks, Export Health Certificates and Border Inspection Posts.
Also discussed on the day was the veterinary role in protecting consumer health. “The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) vision of safe and trustworthy food for everyone can only be achieved by working with everyone in the food chain. This includes working in partnership with the veterinarians who contribute every day to protecting consumer health through the work they do,’ said Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Speaking at the Veterinary Ireland Annual Conference about Public Health and Food Safety in Ireland, Dr. Byrne said that veterinarians are required to be competent in a number of fields, including the identification of food hazards, risk assessment procedures, food safety controls, system audits, laboratory testing methods and legal issues. ‘The FSAI looks forward to continuing to build on our partnerships with the veterinary profession and other stakeholders to achieve our vision and ensure that we all recognise the value of working in a One Health approach to protect consumers.’