Not all abattoir vets have the right knowledge and experience, says Norman Bagley, head of policy at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS). Brexit gives us a chance to improve our veterinary food controls.
There has been much in the news lately about workers from other countries and how they will or will not be accommodated after Brexit on March 29 2019.
It seems they fit into two broad groups: the first being ‘low-skilled’ workers, often referred to in the media in relation to food and farming as ‘seasonal workers’.
But we all know that, aside from some intense Christmas activity, in the farming, meat processing and packing sector they are used all year round.
Then there are the ‘skilled-workers’: engineers, finance and IT, certain medical roles, the list is quite lengthy. What is not on that list is vets.
Now the veterinary profession has been quite vocal in the media on this, with headlines such as:
‘A no deal Brexit will exacerbate current shortages in the veterinary profession and create significant risks for trade, animal health and welfare, and food safety’
‘The BVA has criticised Michael Gove for his statements regarding non-British vets, and warned that personnel shortages in the industry could lead to more incidents of food fraud’
Of course, all of these ‘Project Fear’-style headlines are from the press office of the British Veterinary Association, the national body for veterinary surgeons in the United Kingdom.
Its purpose is that of knowledge dissemination, and not professional validation or academic competence. But someone has to look out for the abattoir vets.
Now, I am sure some of the abattoirs will have fantastic, experienced and knowledgeable vets, but I know from my daily call log that a lot do not.
Some of the vets will spend a percentage of their day on the phone to their more experienced managers, being advised what to do.
Some have been told they have to write a certain number of entries in the ‘enforcement log’ every day.
The stumbling block is EU rules on ante- and post-mortem inspection – that is, the checks of animals and birds before and after they are slaughtered.
Changing this is a nettle that only the Food Standards Agency can grasp, if it genuinely wants to explore different veterinary controls.
This has long been our contention, and surely now is the time.
Incidentally, I do not know what you are currently paying for your own vets, but the FSA charge out rate is £39/hour, which is discounted.
As they say, ‘you get what you pay for’…
Norman can be found tweeting at @normanbagley1