British Veterinary Association warns ‘costly bureaucracy’ and ‘onerous regulation’ of veterinary medicine in Northern Ireland risk to animal welfare, public health and agricultural economy

Tonight, British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Malcolm Morley warned that ‘costly bureaucracy’; ‘the threat of onerous regulation’ and border checks of veterinary medicine as a result of Northern Ireland’s unique place in both the UK and EU regulatory systems, risked an animal welfare crisis and threatens public health.

Speaking to more than 80 guests at BVA’s 2022 Northern Ireland Dinner in Stormont, BVA’s President talked about the potential shortage of animal medicines facing the profession in Northern Ireland as the result of post-Brexit regulation.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol which had its second reading in the UK Parliament yesterday, it is proposed that medicines entering the country will be required to be batch tested by a marketing authorisation holder based in Northern Ireland or the EU. The ‘grace period’ currently in place, which delays the need for these requirements, concludes at the end of the year. Should the deadline lapse without a workable solution there is the potential for the discontinuation of around half of all veterinary medicines for a variety of animals and livestock.

Longer-term, there is a question about how new medicines come onto the market. Given the uncertainty of procedures combined with the limited size of the market in Northern Ireland, there is a worrying possibility that medicines companies will simply choose to bypass Northern Ireland altogether. This would be a disaster, for veterinary practices, clients, livestock agriculture and most importantly, for animals who in the end will suffer the consequences most acutely.

Malcolm outlined the threat of veterinary medicine shortages to public health as well as the economy.

Malcolm said: “This affects all sectors—farm, equine and pets. It is also not just an animal health issue but a public health issue, particularly if salmonella vaccines become unavailable to poultry vets. Such public health risks would also jeopardise access to markets outside Northern Ireland.

“The situation is highly concerning…. there is an urgent and immediate need to find a resolution. I know we can put the politics to one side and seek practical solutions. After all, to fail risks an animal welfare disaster, devastating impacts on livestock productivity and disruption to food chains in Northern Ireland at a time when we can least afford it.   

“BVA’s Northern Ireland Branch President Fiona McFarland and her team have been working hard to set out for officials what the consequences of this loss of veterinary medicines would mean. They continue to work closely with our colleagues in farmers unions, the National Office of Animal Health and others to find a way forward.

“I believe a path forward can be found. We’ve seen that it’s possible to navigate the same issue for human medicines and adopting a similar approach for animals seems like a clear way forward. It was great to see UK and EU Commission negotiations restart last week. We need this issue to be top on their agenda.”

Addressing guests including Minister for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots and MLAs, Malcolm also highlighted: the ongoing workforce shortages facing the veterinary profession, which are being felt acutely in Northern Ireland; animal disease control and future farming policy; and BVA’s continued lobbying of the UK Government to see the Kept Animals Bill transition into legislation.

The BVA President ended his speech by thanking BVA Northern Ireland Branch for its hard work and encouraged guests to continue collaborative efforts to find and champion solutions to these pressing issues.

Full speech available on request.

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