WORKING rights of non-British EU vets and veterinary nurses must be guaranteed without time limit if the veterinary and food safety sectors are able to function, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) president has said.
Speaking at a BVA Scotland dinner in Holyrood, the association’s president Gudrun Ravetz said 50 per cent of the vets registered to practice in the UK came from the rest of the EU.
It is believed more than 90 per cent of the official veterinarians (OVs) in Scotland’s abattoirs are non-British EU citizens.
Speaking to a 100-strong gathering of industry figures and politicians, Ms Ravetz said: “A strong veterinary workforce is vital to maintaining high animal welfare and food safety standards.
"Not a penny of Scotland’s £2 billion agri-food outputs could be realised without vets. Veterinary teams support half of all Scotland’s households which own pets and vets are an integral part of the international scientific community working in Scotland’s world-leading veterinary schools and research institutes.”
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Ms Ravetz, a small animal vet in Cumbria, also emphasised the need for effective partnership working.
“Last year’s avian influenza outbreak, which hit a farm near Dunfermline, and many others throughout Great Britain, reinforces the need for a robust surveillance system, underpinned by vets’ frontline presence, to protect the health of our livestock," she added.
“Building on this momentum [of the Scottish Government’s application for BSE Negligible Risk status], we would like to see the tripartite partnership of Government, vets and farmers continue, progressing the excellent work done so far through the development of control measures for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and Johne’s disease."
The BVA president also highlighted the problem of recruiting and then retaining vets in the more remote areas of rural Scotland.
She said: “It is a major challenge and the Government’s financial support for the Highlands and Islands Veterinary Services Scheme is invaluable in enabling the provision of vital veterinary services in these hard to reach places.
“There, a small number of vets shoulder an enormous burden, with potential impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, which is why initiatives like the Government-backed ‘National Rural Mental Health Forum’ are welcomed."