Farmers are likely to be left with a shortage of official vets because a growing number of them will be needed to carry out certification of food exports and imports when the UK leaves the EU, according to British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Gudrun Ravetz.
As all EU member states are liable to be classed as ‘third countries’ for trade purposes after Brexit, the BVA expects many more official vets (OVs) will be required to service the increase in demand for veterinary certification and supervision.
Ms Ravetz says this additional workload, coupled with the veterinary industry’s heavy reliance upon EU labour – over 90 per cent of OVs are EU27 citizens – has the potential to undermine the UK’s future export capability.
“We need to be aware that whatever trade deals we have, we could well be a third country, particularly with the EU, and therefore our levels of needing vets for certification are going to increase alarmingly”, she added.
“We need to be very aware of this and be preparing for it because vets play a vital role in animal health and welfare, as well as disease surveillance and certification. We must not rule this out as a serious concern for the veterinary profession.”
The BVA also claims there have been fewer applications for veterinary public health roles since the EU referendum.
Ms Ravetz said: “There are significant concerns about the potential impact of a post-Brexit veterinary workforce shortage on the UK’s £100 billion agri-food sector, in terms of risking business and consumer confidence.”
Other fears about the future of the veterinary workforce were raised by Dr Sofia Hepple from the Animal Plant and Health Agency during a committee hearing in parliament.
She said the supply of farm veterinary support within the UK had been a long-standing issue because the majority of students in vet schools were going into small animal practice and staying there.