BVA: Vets must be at the heart of new Trade and Agriculture Commission

A professional body representing over 18,000 UK vets has urged the government to put veterinary professionals and animal welfare science at the centre of a new commission to help inform future UK trade policies.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the announcement from Trade Secretary Liz Truss that a new Trade and Agriculture Commission will be established. However, urged Truss to ensure professionals in animal welfare were part of the process.

The advisory commission will consider the policies that the UK Government should adopt in free trade agreements to make sure UK animal welfare and production standards are not undermined.

The commission will produce a report to be put before Parliament making recommendations for:

  • UK agricultural trade policy;
  • Higher animal welfare standards across the globe;
  • Export opportunities for UK farming.

However, BVA senior vice president Simon Doherty said that while it supported the commission’s purpose, it was crucial professional vets were at the heart of the process.

“The veterinary profession has always been clear that any new trade agreements must not undermine the UK’s high animal health and welfare standards,” he said.

Along with our colleagues in the farming industry, we have been pushing for this commitment to be enshrined in legislation.

“We welcome the new Trade and Agriculture Commission but it is essential that veterinary expertise is at the heart of its membership and remit.

“Vets are critical to facilitating international trade and are committed to protecting and enhancing animal health and welfare and public health.

“Although the commission only has an advisory role it is important that its advice is genuinely listened to and acted on by the Government.

“There is huge public concern about a lowering of animal welfare standards and consumers need to have confidence in what they are buying.”

It comes less than two weeks after the one-millionth signature was added to a petition calling for legal protection for British food standards in trade deals.

The National Farmers’ Union said it was the “clearest indication yet” that members of the British public do not want to see food on their supermarket shelves, or in their restaurants and cafes, that falls below the standards British farmers adhere to.

In a letter to NFU president Minette Batters, Truss said she “wholeheartedly agreed” that any trade deal the UK strikes must not compromise on UK food safety and welfare standards.

I have been very clear on both these points and will continue to fight for the interests of our farming industry in any and all trade arrangements we negotiate.

“…I support your recommendation that the commission is not another quango or regulator, and that it is strictly time-limited,” she said.