Risk to abattoir vets if new immigration rules imposed

Welsh food chain at increased risk of food fraud and animal welfare breaches after Brexit

New immigration rules imposed after Brexit could see a crisis in abattoirs that could undermine the Welsh food sector.

That’s the concern of Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister for rural affairs, after the UK Government proposal that only EU workers on a minimum salary of £30,0000 would be granted work visas.

Currently 95% of all abattoir veterinarians are from the EU and experts in the field fear the sector would be at risk if they were unable to stay in the UK.

Llyr Gruffydd, who is also honorary president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said:  “It is essential that veterinary surgeons from the EU are able to continue to work here after Brexit. EU vets carry out important but comparatively low-paid roles in public health, especially in abattoirs, and I’m concerned about the impact of the UK Government’s proposals on the sector.”

The Immigration White Paper includes plans to scrap the cap for skilled workers, such as doctors and engineers, and a consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.

The BVA is warning that a £30,000 threshold for EU workers could lead to a near-total wipeout of veterinary surgeons in critical public health roles in UK abattoirs, with devastating consequences for UK trade.

Mr Gruffydd added: “Starting salaries for vets who monitor standards, food safety and animal health and welfare in abattoirs are in the mid-£20,000s, meaning that imposing this threshold could jeopardise this vital and specialist section of the workforce.

“Last year I had support from nearly 30 AMs who backed my letter to Michael Gove, the UK minister with responsibility in this field, to reinstate vets on the Shortage Occupation List, to ensure that we avoid a potentially problematic shortfall in capacity post-Brexit.

“A recent survey revealed that 64 percent of vets now believe Brexit is more of a threat to their profession with only 14% seeing it as an opportunity. A majority of vets say that the EU referendum result has also made it more difficult to recruit vets in their sector. More than eight out of 10 vets also support making vets a shortage occupation post-Brexit.

“Unless the UK Government recognises this, there is a very real danger that the food chain will be left exposed to an increased risk of food fraud and animal welfare breaches at a time when it has never been more important to preserve high levels of consumer confidence in UK produce, both at home and overseas.”

The BVA and RCVS response to the Migration Advisory Committee (Nov 2017) provides facts and figures around the veterinary workforce and makes the case for vets to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.

Information on Official Veterinarian salaries is available at Glassdoor.

Survey details bva.co.uk/voice

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