Brexit: what will it mean for farmers and vets?
Who knows? The future is so uncertain at the moment that we can only speculate on the impact the Brexit will have on farming, the veterinary profession and animal welfare.
As a practice that is so closely involved with our local farming community, we at Alnorthumbria will take a very keen interest as the dust settles and the future becomes clearer over the next few weeks, months or years.
The EU currently subsidises UK farming to the tune of 3.5billion Euros a year. Will the UK Government continue this level of subsidy?
If so, will it be targeted more heavily at intensive farming, or at more extensive units that are deemed to be better for animal welfare and the environment?
There are 17 EU laws that set standards on the way that farm animals are produced, transported and slaughtered.
Will the UK Government replace these with similar legislation, or even try to set higher standards in animal welfare, for instance by banning live exports, introducing CCTV in all slaughterhouses, or banning slaughter without pre-stunning?
Or will the need to strike trade deals with countries that do not have such high animal welfare standards force a reduction in our own standards?
Will we be able to maintain co-operation with other European countries in areas such as disease surveillance, registration of new veterinary medicines and ensuring appropriate use of veterinary medicines, particularly with respect to antimicrobial resistance?
What about funding research in animal diseases and welfare? Will the current EU funding be replaced by national funding, or will research be one of the first victims if austerity bites even deeper?
Many UK farms currently employ workers from other EU countries. If they are no longer able to come to the UK, who will replace them?
Veterinary practices also employ many vets from other EU countries. Those that are currently here will hopefully be allowed to stay if they want to, but it will not be so easy to employ EU vets in future. Indeed, some of their qualifications may no longer be recognised in the UK.
There is already a shortage of vets in this country. Are we going to be able to train more ‘home-grown’ vets to make up the shortfall, or will we allow more vets in from other countries around the world?
One other issue that may affect the small animal side of the practice is the Pet Passport Scheme. This allows free movement of dogs and cats in the EU, providing they have been vaccinated against rabies and microchipped.
Will the UK continue to be part of this scheme, or will we revert to the quarantine laws which preceded it?
There will be pressure to address the current situation in which puppies with forged or falsified pet passports are imported into the UK from puppy farms in Eastern Europe.
These are only some of the uncertainties facing us; I’m sure there are many more which I haven’t thought of.
• Alnorthumbria Vets is a mixed practice that treats all species of domestic animals, and a few wild ones.
Vets have developed special interests so there are separate teams dedicated to the care of farm animals, horses and small animals.
The practice has nine centres across Northumberland, from Wooler in the north to Ponteland in the south, and provides a 24-hour service.
It is committed to a pro-active approach to animal health care, rather than just reacting when illness or injury strikes. Key elements of routine preventative healthcare are vaccination, regular treatment for parasites, neutering and dental care.
The practice has been approved by the Royal College as a Veterinary Nurse Training Practice.