New Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers must focus on key priorities of securing new legislation on animal sentience before the UK leaves the EU and putting plans in place to ensure a strong veterinary workforce to support trade, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
BVA has welcomed Theresa Villiers’ appointment and is seeking an early meeting with her to brief her on some of the most pressing animal health and welfare and public issues she needs to tackle.
On animal sentience BVA will be pressing for urgent action to secure this important principle into UK legislation. Former Defra Secretary Michael Gove pledged to bring a new law in before the UK left the EU but failed to take his draft legislation through Parliament.
On workforce issues, BVA is keen to continue the close working with Defra and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (the veterinary regulator) to make sure the UK has the veterinary workforce it needs to secure animal health and welfare and meet the significant increase in veterinary certification for international trade.
BVA will also be seeking government action to improve welfare at slaughter, including a commitment to ban the export of meat and produce from non-stun slaughter, to secure tighter controls on the movement of pet animals, and to continue cross-sector efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance and support sustainable animal agriculture.
Congratulating the new Secretary of State, BVA President Simon Doherty said:
“We welcome the appointment of Theresa Villiers and look forward to an early meeting to discuss the urgent issues of animal sentience, veterinary workforce, and the impact of no-deal on the animal health and welfare sector
“The new Prime Minister’s well-publicised deal or no-deal strategy means that we need a strong and well-informed voice in Cabinet championing animal health and welfare and understanding the veterinary role in public health and international trade.
“The next few months will be critical for our profession and we will continue to represent vets at the highest level."
Commenting on Michael Gove’s move from Defra to the Cabinet Office where he will oversee no-deal planning, Mr Doherty added:
“We’d like to thank Michael Gove for his time as Defra Secretary of State where he led on some major animal health and welfare initiatives and helped us secure a return of vets to the shortage occupation list.
“It’s disappointing that he didn’t manage to take his draft legislation on animal sentience through Parliament, but this remains a key priority.
“In his new role in charge of no-deal Brexit planning, we are keen to work with him to continue raising awareness of the enormous impact this could have on the veterinary profession and wider animal health and welfare sector.”