Veterinarians play a vital role in safeguarding UK public health, enabling trade and maintaining animal health and welfare. More than 31% of the UK veterinary workforce is supplied by veterinarians from outside the UK. We cherish and value their work, and we want to ensure that they can continue to make an important contribution.
I appreciate the Secretary of State’s reply. Britain leads the world in both food hygiene and animal welfare, but that is now at risk. The British Veterinary Association reckons that 95% of the vets in our abattoirs are from the EU, and that many of them are leaving. Will the Secretary of State release the impact assessment that I am certain he will have carried out, and will he tell us what action he is taking to protect our meat industry, animal welfare and food safety from that clear and imminent threat?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. He is right: more than 90% of the veterinarians in our abattoirs come from the EU27 countries, and I and my Department have been talking to representatives of the profession to ensure that those who do such a wonderful job continue to feel valued and to play the important role they do in assuring the public of the very high standards of food hygiene.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the slaughter of UK animals should take place in UK abattoirs overseen by appropriately qualified vets, and will he take steps to ensure that the evil and cruel trade of live animal exports is ended when we leave the EU?
I commend my hon. Friend for his campaigning on this issue, and, as he points out, as we leave the EU there are opportunities to review and change our approach to live exports, and to ensure higher standards of animal welfare.