A combined effort is required to resolve a looming veterinary medicines problem that is about to impact in Northern Ireland.

This is the view of Tom Elliott, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) spokesperson for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs at the Stormont Assembly.

“The House of Lords European Affairs Sub-Committee inquiry into veterinary medicines and the Windsor Framework recognises the deep concern of the agri-food industry that the number of veterinary products estimated to be at risk in Northern Ireland could be up to 51%.

“The British Agricultural Bureau rightly highlighted that the absence of adequate access to veterinary medicines risks competitiveness and could lead to increased vulnerability to disease outbreaks, reduced capacity to treat and prevent illnesses.

“Such a scenario would also compromise animal welfare standards, which not only poses a threat to individual animals but has broader implications for public health,” Elliot said.

He added that he “provided a written submission to the Lords’ inquiry and indicated that Northern Ireland is overwhelmingly reliant on veterinary medicines form Great Britain.

“The World Veterinary Association has produced an essential veterinary medicines list for medicines that must be available in every country. Some of these will be discontinued in Northern Ireland.”

According to the UUP politician, the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland branch claims that potential issues arising from a reduction in veterinary medicines could cause a public health emergency.

This is because many diseases animals need vaccinated for can spread to humans.

Elliott has also discussed these matters with professional stakeholder groups within the veterinary profession.

“It is vital that the Minister of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs brings forward proposals to the UK government and European Union authorities that could positively help resolve this matter,” he continued.

Veterinary medicines

Meanwhile, last week saw a cross-party House of Lords committee writing to Westminster Cabinet Office Minister Steve Baker, stressing the need for urgent action on veterinary medicine supplies to Northern Ireland to protect human and animal health.

The letter, from the Windsor Framework Sub-Committee, follows the peers’ inquiry into the potential effect of veterinary medicines becoming unavailable or restricted unless a swift solution is reached between the UK and EU.

The committee heard serious concerns that the loss of veterinary medicines may have consequences for public health in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland.

It is estimated that around a third of veterinary medicines currently used in Northern Ireland are at risk of discontinuation.

Witnesses addressing the committee also spoke of the potential for “serious economic effects” on the farming and agriculture industry in the absence of a solution, with farmers potentially unable to sell their produce.