In response to the shortage of vets in the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has given evidence to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) about the implications of such shortages.

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Emily Miles, FSA chief executive.

Giving evidence to EFRA in a hearing, FSA CEO Emily Miles said: “Our Official Veterinarians (OVs) are the backbone in protecting animal health and welfare and trade as well as assuring food safety standards in the UK.

“The FSA’s ability to deliver OV-led inspections in abattoirs is under sustained pressure because of vet workforce shortages, putting at risk the high consumer trust we have in meat and animal welfare standards here. We rely on vets from overseas to do critical public health and animal welfare work in abattoirs, with very few UK-trained vets currently interested in doing this work.

“That is why today the FSA asked for legislative reform, financial backing, a supportive immigration policy and a systematic strategy to deliver rewarding and sustainable veterinary careers. We need a joined-up approach across Government and the veterinary profession so that we end the current precarious situation and the UK public can have food they can trust into the future.”

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) CEO Geoff Ogle said that "supporting the meat industry and ensuring consumer protection means overseas recruitment remains vital in securing adequate staffing", and called on UK Government to "acknowledge the challenges" and make "sensible provision for veterinary recruitment", including on immigration policy.

AIMS calls for vet-led team model

Jason Aldiss, spokesperson for the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), argued that the "real issue at hand is not a shortage of veterinarians, but a profound lack of vision and leadership within the sector", calling for industry to move towards a "vet-led team model" in order to allow veterinary professionals to focus on more important areas.

Aldiss said: "The hearing further dispelled the myth that an increased demand for veterinary services, such as import controls and meat inspections, necessitates a proportional expansion of the vet workforce.

"Contrary to this belief, evidence presented highlighted the availability and capability of AI and other technological innovations to perform these tasks more effectively and efficiently, thereby challenging the current model's reliance on an inflated number of veterinarians for tasks that could be streamlined or automated."

This story was originally published on a previous version of the Meat Management website and so there may be some missing images and formatting issues.