British Veterinary Association (BVA) President John Fishwick has urged the Home Office to place vets on the shortage occupation list, to safeguard against a crisis in capacity.
Recent research from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has suggested that one in five EU vets is now actively looking for work outside of the UK, with 44% saying they are fearful about what the future holds for them post-Brexit.
He told guest at a BVA Scotland dinner held earlier this week (Tuesday) at Holyrood: “There are over 2,200 vets working in Scotland, and of these 14% are non-UK EU graduates.
"The impact of the loss of even a small percentage of the veterinary workforce could have serious repercussions, especially in slaughterhouses, where it’s estimated that 95 per cent of vets delivering vital public health roles are from overseas, mostly the EU.”
Turning to farm to fork animal welfare issues Mr Fishwick insisted vets were an integral part of a process and were well aware of the growing public appetite for informed choices.
“To help support this, we’ve recently produced a grid that looks at whether some of the UK’s best-known farm assurance schemes address key areas such as veterinary involvement, environmental protection and welfare at slaughter.
"I am sure you will be glad to know Quality Meat Scotland’s scheme is one of the star performers here. While we understand that there is no non-stun slaughter currently happening in Scotland, our campaign continues apace to see this practice ended altogether,” he said.
Scotland was however behind England when it came to introducing compulsory CCTV in abattoirs. This was now mandatory south of the border.
Mr Fishwick told an audience which included Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the technology was an important complement to the current monitoring carried out by Official Veterinarians (OVs).
On the issue of the live export of animals it was , said Mr Fishwick, a case of striking the right balance between safeguarding animal welfare and ensuring a thriving food production industry for Scotland.
Animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible, and transported on the hook rather than the hoof. Geographical complexities however had to be recognised especially on the islands and other remote areas of the country.