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

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British Veterinary Association (BVA) president, Malcolm Morley, has 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 at BVA’s 2022 Northern Ireland Dinner, the president talked about the potential shortage of animal medicines facing the profession in Northern Ireland as the result of post-Brexit regulation.

Under the NI Protocol 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 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.

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 will suffer the consequences most acutely.

Fiona McFarland, Edwin Poots and Malcolm Morley.Fiona McFarland, Edwin Poots and Malcolm Morley.
Fiona McFarland, Edwin Poots and Malcolm Morley.

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.”

He continued: “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."

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.