The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned Defra’s plans to allow non-vets to issue export health certificates (EHCs) could hamper post-Brexit trade.
The group’s chief executive, Simon Doherty, told Farmers Guardian of his disappointment after Defra’s director general for food and animal health, David Kennedy, said to MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) it was ‘standard’ international practice for non-vets to sign export health certificates (EHCs).
In June, Defra Secretary Michael Gove suggested the Government was looking at allowing non-vets to issue EHCs to deal with the predicted increase in the number of certificates needed after Brexit, when imports from and exports to the EU would require certification.
Mr Gove’s comments sparked a furious backlash from the BVA, which warned some countries would not accept food exports which had not been certified by a veterinary surgeon.
Now Mr Kennedy has doubled-down on Defra’s position, telling the PAC it would be ‘very helpful’ if non-vets could be used to issue EHCs.
“This is a discussion we are having with the Royal College [of Veterinary Surgeons] at the moment, and that discussion will conclude in November,” he said.
“Within the international regime, it is a standard thing. It is more that we need to get the Royal College to feel comfortable with it, and this is an ongoing discussion.”
But Mr Doherty said the plans could have ‘serious implications for the UK’s ability to trade’.
“The veterinary profession is increasingly frustrated by the misrepresentation of our views during parliamentary committee inquiries,” he added.
“We know from discussions with trade delegations that certification by veterinary surgeons is essential to provide confidence and assurance.
“It is entirely misleading to suggest that the international community accepts trade certification by non-vets as standard.
“However, we are open to discussions around suitably qualified non-vets taking a supportive role in aspects of certification to ease the burden on veterinary surgeons. This would not replace certification by veterinary surgeons but would become part of the process.
“Discussions have been taking place between the Government and RCVS, and BVA is feeding in the views of the veterinary profession.”