BVA has warned that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a surge in demand for vets and laboratories to carry out testing on horses, at a time when the workforce is already facing significant shortfalls in capacity.
The technical notice governing animal movements, published today by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), suggests that in a no-deal scenario there could be hurdles to clear before horses are permitted to travel to the EU from the UK. The UK would have to apply to be a listed country before horses would be able to move, but horses would have to be subjected to a wide range of disease testing carried out by vets with the required qualifications before they were cleared for travel.
The increased cost if additional blood tests are required is estimated to be between £200 and £500 depending on the third country category the UK is placed in after leaving the EU.
Under the current system, a vet needs to hold a recognised equine exports qualification, in addition to their veterinary degree, in order to be authorised to sign an export health certificate for horses prior to travel. However, in a recent BVA survey of Official Veterinarians, two-thirds of respondents (66 per cent) who currently hold this module said that they are not planning to renew their qualification when this is next required.
Simon Doherty, BVA President, said: “A no-deal Brexit could see a surge in demand for vets to carry out disease checks on horses, heaping pressure on this specialist section of the workforce when they are already experiencing uncertainty and shortages.
“It’s doubly worrying that two-thirds of vets holding the required equine exports module plan to drop this qualification. This is partly due to some concerns about the current training and revalidation system being onerous, costly and not fit for purpose, and we have been working with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to help identify where improvements could be made.
“Finally, if this situation comes to pass it will be critical that laboratories have the capacity and required support to deal with such a huge increase in demand for their services. We will continue to engage with the government on these points as part of our wider activity supporting members and exploring the potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit on the workforce and animal welfare.”