BVA president Dr Justine Shotton has spoken out about the “triple whammy of pressures” vets face in Northern Ireland resulting from Brexit, COVID-19 and a surge in pet ownership.
Speaking at BVA’s 2021 Northern Ireland Dinner on Wednesday (20 October), Dr Shotton said that the rise in pet ownership has worsened pressures on veterinary professionals at a time when they have already been impacted by shortages.
She said: “A triple whammy of Brexit, Covid and a surge in pet ownership has taken its toll on the veterinary profession to levels we could never have imagined at the beginning of 2020.
“I know from the vets I have spoken to in Northern Ireland and across the UK that they have adjusted admirably to new pressures, new requirements, and new measures to keep themselves, colleagues and clients as safe as possible. But it is not sustainable. And as we take these small steps towards the new normal, it’s clear that weathering a perfect storm of pressures continues to be immensely difficult across the veterinary community.”
More than 80 guests attended BVA's annual dinner in Stormont, including environment minister Edwin Poots, DAERA secretary Anthony Harbison and NI chief veterinary officer, Robert Huey.
During the event, Dr Shotton highlighted the importance of taking a pragmatic and proportionate approach to ongoing Brexit discussions and being mindful of those working in the food chain who will be most impacted by any changes.
Commenting on the veterinary workforce shortages, she said: “To us, the paramount priorities are preserving the integrity of the supply chain, supporting agriculture across the UK and – our overriding raison d’être – upholding high standards of animal health and welfare at every turn.
“Ultimately, it is those on the frontline of the food chain – the producers, farmers and vets – who stand to be most affected by any changes. And so I ask those involved in these important discussions to keep the agricultural community front and centre and make sure that there is adequate ongoing support for all those who may be impacted.”
Dr Shotton's theme for her presidential year is sustainability, and during her speech, she called on everyone to play their part in important conversations and actions to protect the planet now and for future generations.
She said: “The pandemic has centred the world’s attention on emerging diseases and how these interplay with how we use and impact on the natural environment.
“As a vet working for a conservation-focused zoo, I have always believed that we each have a part to play in ensuring our practices are sustainable for the long-term, and that we need to find the balance to allow humans to thrive while supporting our wider ecosystems and all the wonders they hold.
“On the cusp of COP26, I can think of no better time to really push forward these priorities, across our profession and beyond,” she said.