Speaking at BVA’s Annual Welsh Dinner at Cardiff’s City Hall, he recognised the huge strength of feeling and scale of work being done to support and champion the Welsh veterinary workforce in the months ahead.
Addressing over 70 guests including Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Assembly Members, key representatives from animal health and welfare organisations, and colleagues from across the veterinary profession, Mr Doherty thanked everyone for supporting BVA’s campaign to get vets reinstated on the Shortage Occupation List.
The Migration Advisory Committee recently published a report recognising the clear evidence for restoring vets to the list, and the Home Office is expected to make a decision on the recommendations shortly. Twenty-nine Welsh Assembly members wrote to Michael Gove last year supporting BVA’s campaign, and Lesley Griffiths also supported the call with a separate letter to the UK Government.
Mr Doherty said: “I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you who supported us. The ball is now in the Home Office’s court to accept the committee’s recommendations and we hope to hear some good news on this very soon.
“Reinstating vets on the Shortage Occupation List is of course a huge win, but it is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing some of the very real and present challenges facing the Welsh veterinary workforce. Whatever form and timeframes Brexit ends up taking, we will keep working hard to ensure that the veterinary community has a strong voice as post-Brexit policy is negotiated and shaped.”
Turning to animal welfare standards after Brexit, Mr Doherty underlined the importance of recognising animal health and welfare as public goods in new agricultural policies. He said:
“BVA fed in to last year’s seminal Brexit and our Land consultation, and highlighted that delivering animal health and welfare as public goods should be at the heart of new agricultural policy. Wales is justifiably proud of its high standards from farm to fork, and with future trade deals on the horizon we must ensure that this reputation and the accompanying consumer confidence in ‘Brand Wales’ both at home and abroad isn’t undermined at any cost.”
Later in his speech, Mr Doherty thanked Welsh Chief Veterinary Officer Christianne Glossop and her team for working closely with vets and industry to ensure that threats to public health, trade and wider society from animal diseases are identified and managed. Singling out recent efforts and funding for monitoring and preventing diseases including sheep scab, Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) for particular praise, he said:
“Wales is really leading the way when it comes to both innovating and investing in work to monitor and protect against diseases which can have devastating impacts. Effective disease prevention and eradication is a key tool for enhancing economic resilience as well as the global image of ‘Brand Wales’ in the unpredictable times ahead.”
Turning to pet welfare, Mr Doherty welcomed the work on revising welfare codes for several different species and the Welsh Government’s recent consultation into third party puppy sales, but said that there was more to do to tackle wider problems relating to dog breeding and irresponsible ownership. He said:
“The wider problems include illegal imports of puppies and street dogs from Eastern Europe, backyard breeders and the phenomenon of ‘click and collect’ puppies who may have poor health status or become abandoned due to poorly planned purchase decisions. We know that the Welsh Government is very alive to these matters, and will make sure we continue to have a voice in exploring solutions in the interests of tackling dog welfare issues and seeing a step change in responsible ownership.”
The BVA President ended his speech by thanking BVA Scottish Branch for its hard work in the past year engaging members in policy and giving them a strong voice on key issues. He gave a special thank you to the branch’s outgoing President, Sarah Carr, saying:
“She has brought boundless energy to her presidency and overseen a step change in member and stakeholder engagement.”
Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, responded to the speech as BVA’s Guest of Honour.