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Parliamentary Veterinary Intern

Are you the next parliamentary Veterinary Intern?

PARLIAMENTARY VETERINARY INTERN – For the office of Professor the Lord Trees

  • One-year appointment.
  • Part-time (four full days per week whilst Parliament is sitting – c.135 days per annum).
  • £23,000 per annum
  • London based.

To start October 2021.

This position is open to veterinary graduates (who are MRCVS) and to veterinary undergraduates enrolled at a UK veterinary school who have completed the third year of the undergraduate course. Candidates must demonstrate commitment to the advancement of the veterinary profession in the UK.

The intern will support the activities of Professor the Lord Trees. To download more information click the link below:

Veterinary Parliamentary Internship – Role Information 2021

To Apply: send a covering letter and CV to Catrina Prince at princec@parliament.uk by the closing date.

Closing date for applications: 12.00pm Monday 5th July

Interviews will be held remotely during the week beginning Monday 12th July.

so far in the 2021-22 Parliamentary Session…

Our latest Veterinary Policy Research Foundation Newsletter is out! Here we share some updates and highlights from the last few months.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

After Scotland passed a similar Bill in July 2020, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act became law in England and Wales on the 29th April 2021. It increases the maximum sentence available for the most serious animal welfare offences from 6 months to five years. Lord Trees spoke at second reading and gave support to the Bill which brings the UK in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, whilst also stressing that the power of the legislation is only as strong as our ability to enforce it.

Enforcement – Animal Welfare

No one state organisation has a statutory responsibility for animal welfare. Local authorities can appoint Inspectors, but this is a discretionary and not a legal duty. We also know that the costs to local authorities of enforcing The Animal Welfare Act are substantial. VPRF attended a roundtable meeting with RSPCA inspectorate, Local Government Animal Welfare Group, UK Centre for Animal Law (A-LAW) and the Police and identified key themes around penalties and the prosecution process.

Halal Assurance Scheme – Demonstration of Life

Along with others, Lord Trees and the VPRF have been involved in the fruition of a Halal Assurance Scheme – the Demonstration of Life Project. On Thursday 22nd April, the project was launched with attendees including Halal certification bodies, NFU, the FSA, AHDB, the BVA and the Minister of State for Defra, Lord Goldsmith. The Scheme will give assurance to Halal consumers in the UK and worldwide that sheep (and goats) stunned by the defined protocol fulfil the religious requirements of Halal – namely that an animal be alive (albeit in this case unconscious) at the time of killing. The protocol is based on a similar procedure which has been used in New Zealand very successfully for many years. Voluntary adoption of this protocol by abattoirs, will give UK sheep farmers the opportunity to exploit the international Halal sheep market and it will provide associated commercial opportunities for the participating abattoirs and certifying bodies. At a recent House of Commons International Trade Committee meeting, Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy at the Department for International Trade, noted that some of the UK Halal products were in strong demand for exports and emphasised the opportunities in this area.

The Agriculture Act

The Agriculture Act passed into law last year. We are continuing
to follow up on the commitment made in the Act to improve
animal health and welfare and the professions. We wrote to
George Freeman MP, Convenor of The Reform for Resilience
Commission noting the role of precision technology, including
genetics, in livestock and the role of ruminants in climate
change
. Our comments will inform the Task Force on Innovation,
Growth and Regulatory Reform. Additionally, on the 16th March 2021, Lord Trees wrote to Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee on moving animal across borders, particularly drawing attention to the ‘Future of Small Abattoirs’ report, published last year.

Post-Brexit Trade

We are continuing to work on issues affecting animals, animal trade and the veterinary profession, post-Brexit. We are in consultation with veterinary bodies on work-force shortages and keep up to date on the situation. When it came to our attention that the valuable day-old-chicks exports were negatively affected by post-Brexit UK-EU border controls, we wrote the Secretary of State, George Eustice, outlining the UKs crucial role in global poultry trade. We attend meetings including the Trade and Animal Welfare Coalition webinar, providing a response the UK Trade Policy and the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s recommendations. On 26th November 2020, Lord Trees contributed to the debate on UK-

Japan Trade agreement. He outlined the limitations of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in allowing sufficient parliamentary scrutiny and also urged the Minister to elucidate details of the Government’s often-quoted commitment:

APGAW

Jointly with APGAW, VPRF provides evidence-based briefings on animal welfare topics such as animals in science and sheep scab control policy in the UK. Lord Trees has chaired the first roundtable on reducing, refining and reusing further animals in science and we are taking this work forward this year.

One Health – United Against Rabies

Lord Trees continues to Chair the United Against Rabies Steering Group. The Steering Group is jointly formed from the tripartite, the OIE, the WHO and the FAO. It provides guidance and oversight to the three working groups made up of international scientists and stakeholders, who are tasked with delivering the goal of global rabies eradication by 2030. This work will continue throughout 2021.

One Health – Official Development Assistance

After a reduction in Official Development Assistance from 0.7 to 0.5% GDP, the budgets affected have recently been announced. Lord Trees and five other peers with health and research expertise wrote to the Prime Minister in April 2021, outlining the huge and devastating impact that the cuts are having on health intervention and research capacity in the UK and globally, as well as the reputational damage caused by the severity and speed of the cuts.

Animal Welfare and the Veterinary Profession – 2021

Going forward, the Queen’s Speech on the 11th May 2021 contains much to engage us at Westminster in the next few months. Additionally, we are scrutinising the Bill that aims to put animal sentience into UK law and getting to grips with the Professional Regulations Bill, which has implications for the future of the profession. We will follow the Environment Bill closely as it comes back into parliamentary business, including how it can better tackle the global health threat of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Abattoirs included as eligible for payments in the Agriculture Bill

LORD TREES’ AMENDMENT 87 TO THE AGRICULTURE BILL ELICITS AN IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION FROM THE GOVERNMENT – A WIN FOR BOTH ANIMAL WELFARE AND THE SELF-SUSTAINABILITY OF THE RURAL ECONOMY.

On Thursday 16th July, in response to Lord Trees amendment, Minister’s confirmed that slaughtering would be recognised as one of the key ‘ancillary services’ eligible for public funds. The Amendment was supported by Baronesses, Lady Mallalieu, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. 

This will enable assistance to be given in an appropriate case to a licensed abattoir which, for example, provides a private kill service or enables slaughtering facilities in an area otherwise without adequate provision. 

“I am delighted to say that we have had it confirmed that the definition of ancillary activities in Clause 1(5) covers slaughtering under either “preparing” or “processing” 

Ministers closing remarks to Amendment 87 of the Agriculture Bill, 16th July 2020 

The clarification was all the more welcome as we had reason to suspect that there had been reluctance to enable abattoirs to receive this support.  

In the last few weeks VPRF and others had written a letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice and had discussed the issue in detail with Lord Gardiner, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity. 

These conversations and others allowed the government to clarify their position before the committee stage debate. We were very glad that at the last minute the Minister at the Dispatch Box confirmed that “slaughter” would be included in the list of “ancillary activities” eligible for support.   

 The proposed amendment was supported by evidence from a recent All Part Parliamentary Group (APGAW) inquiry; “The Future for Small Abattoirs in the UK”. 

Lord Trees argued that: 

Given the key role that small abattoirs can play in improving animal welfare, enabling local food production and enabling the financial sustainability of livestock  farming, while contributing to the wider rural economy and our national food security, I submit that there is a strong case for their eligibility for support, subject to conditions, under this Bill.” 

He emphasised; 

“The amendment is not about subsidising abattoirs. It would merely allow as eligible for assistance certain abattoirs that recognise the higher regulatory standards rightly required for operations that are relatively low throughput and local.” 

A selection of messages received

“Thank you so much for tabling the amendment…as a small abattoir operator it was good to hear that our place in the local meat supply chain is being recognised at last. I realise this is a first step to securing a future for small abattoirs but it gives them hope and the means for possible support

John Mettrick, Mettricks Butchers, 16th July 2020

“thank you so much for your work in support of abattoirs and for the successful outcome yesterday, we very much appreciate all you have done” 

Megan Perry, Head of Communications, Sustainable Food Trust, 17th July 2020 

Excellent news on the amendment!” 

Tim Morris, Non-executive board member for the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England


“I cannot refrain from saying bravo, hooray and lots of other adulatory adjectives. You spoke brilliantly, have been persistent and utterly persuasive and we finally have some indication from the Government that they are listening.” 

Lady Jane Parker, Sustainable Food Trust 

Above: Farmers Guardian article 24th July 2020 

Read more about the build-up to this Amendment in a Vet Record Article (July 2020) by Intern Catrina Prince: 

also see Lord Tree’s full speech, as recorded in Hansard 

…and further reading and supporting data can be found in the APGAW report “The Future for Small Abattoirs in the UK”  

Higher insurance premiums revealed for popular brachycephalic BREEDs

Gemma Chaters1; Alexander John Trees2, Gabrielle Laing3

1University of Glasgow; 2House of Lords; 3Veterinary Policy Research Foundation House of Lords

G.Chaters.1@research.gla.ac.uk

Abstract

Certain dog breeds are increasing in popularity in the UK and there is growing concern for the health and welfare of some of these breeds due to their conformational deformities.

As a surrogate measure of lifetime health and welfare, we compared health insurance premiums for fourteen popular UK dog breeds. Premiums for French and English bulldogs were over four times higher than the lowest premiums. We suggest this is an objective, actuarial indication of the expected higher healthcare costs of these brachycephalic breeds, reflecting in general, their predisposition to ill-health related to their conformation.

Introduction

There is growing concern from the veterinary profession and related bodies for the health and welfare of certain dog breeds in the UK because of the problems they have due to conformational defects. This concern comes at a time of increasing popularity of these breeds. Over the last ten years, the Kennel club has reported large increases in the registrations of brachycephalic breeds (dogs with less than 80% of their natural head depth) such as the French bulldog (up 3000%), pug (up 193%) and English bulldog (up 96%).

Brachycephalic dogs suffer a variety of clinical problems associated with their conformation including obstructive airway syndrome, gastro-intestinal disease, ataxia and lameness, eye disease, dystocia and spinal disease (1–6). For further references please see the Veterinary Policy Research Foundation fact file on Brachycephaly and other conformational disorders (7). It is of grave concern that a significant proportion of the pet dog population potentially endure avoidable ill-health and pain to satisfy human fashion.

A scoping study we did using market price comparison websites showed that the monthly cost for a cocker spaniel ranged from £8-14, compared to the pug £15-£22 and French Bulldog £28-£47. The policies for each breed were not directly comparable because the policy conditions (excess, limits, length of cover etc.) vary, however, they give an idea of the variations in cost. A further example of between breed price heterogeneity is that the cheapest monthly premium available that will cover vet fees up to £7000 was cheapest for the spaniel (£11) followed by the pug (£20) then the French Bulldog (£40).

For this investigation, to avoid introducing bias by comparing policies with different small-print stipulations, the authors contacted insurance company underwriters directly to get data that are comparable. We compare health insurance premiums between breeds, for identical quotes, hypothecating that these will be a surrogate measure for expected lifetime health and wellbeing, and may objectively highlight the predisposition to ill-health of certain dog breeds.

Methods

Three major insurance companies (collectively underwriting for companies that provide the insurance for over 75% of insured dogs in the UK) were requested to quote premiums for the most popular fourteen UK dog breeds (see Table 1) for a policy giving full lifetime cover, with an excess of £100, from each of three ages (fourteen weeks, four years and seven years of age), for a male dog, resident in the north-west UK (LA9 postcode).

A mixture of perceived risk from known health problems and a consideration of the magnitude of historic claims were given, by actuaries, as the basis for the setting of the premium. The companies quoted in units of one, where one was the lowest premium in all breeds and age categories. The data from each company were then combined to give a mean premium for each breed at each life stage (Table 1). Finally, a mean for the three age categories for each breed was derived to give a final ranking of costs (Figure 1).

Results

There was a high level of agreement between the insurance companies for the ranking of breeds within and across each of the three age categories. Table 1 shows the mean relative cost (n= three companies) of the monthly premium for each breed for each age category and the mean across all age categories for each breed. The combined results from all age categories are shown in Figure 1.

Across all age categories the English and French bulldog premiums were over four times more expensive than the cost of the cheapest breeds (chihuahua and shih tzu). The pug and German shepherd were next highest with their premiums around double that of the cheapest breeds. All other breed premiums were, on average 1.7 or less, times higher relative to the cheapest.

Discussion

Using strictly comparable quotes these results show that the French and English bulldogs, two popular brachycephalic breeds, have substantially higher insurance premiums compared with other popular UK dog breeds. This is an objective, actuarial indication of expected higher lifetime healthcare costs, reflecting the high pre-disposition to ill-health of these breeds. It is consistent with studies comparing the prevalence of ill-health and clinical signs amongst brachycephalic dog breeds (1-6).

The results have not been adjusted for breed size but although the smallest breeds (chihuahua and shih tzu) have the lowest premium costs, the premiums for most larger breeds are less than 50%

higher. This outcome shows that the effects of breed size on premiums are minimal in comparison to the effects of breed specific factors.

In the UK, we have been increasingly owning and breeding brachycephalic dog breeds for human pleasure, which the results of this study show incur higher health insurance premiums when compared to other popular breeds, suggesting a higher likelihood of ill-health and poor welfare.

It is incumbent on all concerned – pet owners, breeders, the veterinary profession – to promote and provide breeds less susceptible to ill health. A number of breeds suffer from ill health attributable to their conformation but prominent amongst these are the brachycephalic breeds. There have been a number of recent measures taken by various bodies which may be yielding positive results, with Kennel Club registrations falling for French bulldogs, bulldogs and pugs in the first half of 2019. Nevertheless, more needs to be done for the sake of animal welfare.

In 2014 the Dutch government introduced legislation prohibiting the breeding of animals “which possess a specific condition or appearance which may affect the health or welfare of the animal or its offspring” (8). Following this, criteria commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture were published in 2019 outlining the severe health and welfare issues of brachycephalic dogs and a traffic light breeding system which guides breeders and vets towards creating a healthier dog population (9). In June 2019 it was stated that the Animal law, with regard to breeding brachycephalic dogs with poor health due to severe conformational disorders, would start to be enforced using the traffic light breeding system guidelines.

Similar legislation was introduced in the UK in 2018. It would help were there to be greater awareness of the fact that under the Animal Welfare ( Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 – a statutory instrument of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 – Schedule 6 states that “No dog may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, phenotype, or state of health that breeding from it could have detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health and welfare of its offspring”. This legislation is yet to be enforced in the UK and a test case would attract greater awareness to the issue.

It is important to note that neither of these pieces of legislation above refer to a specific breed and they allow for a variation in conformation within breed.

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the following insurance companies: Agria Pet Insurance, Petplan and RSA UK. GC undertook this project as part of a work placement at the House of Lords funded by a BBSRC studentship at The University of Glasgow.

References

1. O’Neill DG, O’Sullivan AM, Manson EA, Church DB, Boag AK, McGreevy PD, et al. Canine dystocia in 50 UK first-opinion emergency care veterinary practices: prevalence and risk factors. Vet Rec. 2017 Jul 22;181(4):88.

2. O’Neill DG, Jackson C, Guy JH, Church DB, McGreevy PD, Thomson PC, et al. Epidemiological associations between brachycephaly and upper respiratory tract disorders in dogs attending veterinary practices in England. Canine Genet Epidemiol. 2015 Dec 14;2(1):10.

3. Packer RMA, Hendricks A, Tivers MS, Burn CC. Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. Ambrósio CE, editor. PLoS One. 2015 Oct 28;10(10):e0137496.

4. Kaye BM, Rutherford L, Perridge DJ, Ter Haar G. Relationship between brachycephalic airway syndrome and gastrointestinal signs in three breeds of dog. J Small Anim Pract. 2018 Nov 1;59(11):670–3.

5. Rohdin C, Jäderlund KH, Ljungvall I, Lindblad-Toh K, Häggström J. High prevalence of gait abnormalities in pugs. Vet Rec. 2018 Feb 10;182(6):167.

6. Liu N-C, Adams VJ, Kalmar L, Ladlow JF, Sargan DR. Whole-Body Barometric Plethysmography Characterizes Upper Airway Obstruction in 3 Brachycephalic Breeds of Dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2016 May;30(3):853–65.

7. Veterinary Policy Research Foundation. VPRF Fact File – Brachycephaly & other conformational disorders [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2019 Nov 28]. Available from: http://www.vetpolicy.org

8. wetten.nl – Regeling – Wet dieren – BWBR0030250 [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 17]. Available from: https://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0030250/2014-07-01/#Hoofdstuk2_Paragraaf1_Artikel2.6

9. Ae Van Hagen M. BREEDING SHORT-MUZZLED DOGS Criteria for the enforcement of Article 3.4. of the Animal Keepers Decree (Besluit Houders van dieren) – Breeding Companion Animals. Utrecht; 2019.

To stop zoonotic diseases, we need to make One Health a reality. Tackling rabies is a good place to start

How rabies control can help build the One Health systems we need.

By Professor Sarah Cleaveland and Professor the Lord Trees*

The coronavirus pandemic has opened the world’s eyes to zoonotic diseases – illnesses that are transmitted from animals to humans (and sometimes vice-versa). Covid-19, Ebola, MERS, avian flu and HIV all originated in animals. Most future pandemics will also start with cross-species “spillover”.

One of the oldest and most frightening zoonotic diseases is rabies. No longer a threat to people in the UK, rabies remains prevalent in over 150 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, and costs an estimated $8.6 billion a year, mainly in lost productivity and treatment costs.

It’s estimated that around 60,000 people die every year from the disease. Almost half of those killed are children under the age of 15 and by far the main source of infection is a bite from a rabid dog. Once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal.

Despite its gruesome pathology, rabies is an entirely preventable disease. Unlike many other zoonoses, the route to rabies control is clear: it requires effective surveillance and reporting, mass dog vaccination to prevent transmission to humans, speedy vaccination to treat people suspected of exposure to rabies, and public education. Latin America has significantly reduced rabies and Mexico was recently declared canine rabies-free by following this process. However control of the disease in Africa and Asia remains poor due to inadequate monitoring and reporting, few dogs being vaccinated and people in the most vulnerable communities rarely having reliable or affordable access to post-bite vaccinations.

While rabies and COVID-19 are very different diseases, the current pandemic clearly shows that we cannot afford to ignore the interconnections between the health of people and animals. However we lack the systems to respond effectively. We need to bridge the governmental divides and budget lines separating human and animal health, and share knowledge in real time to systematically detect dangerous pathogens and intervene swiftly to control them.

At present, human health systems dwarf the animal health sector, and institutional barriers constrain the ability of the two sectors to act in concert. But we do have a way forward in ‘One Health’, a globally-recognised framework for integrating human, animal and environmental health responses. The challenge is to implement it more widely.

There is no doubt that making One Health a reality is complicated. It adds new dimensions to interactions and processes for detecting, reporting and responding to disease outbreaks. Rather than building completely new systems, we should build on existing knowledge where we can. Rabies provides an excellent platform for One Health implementation, particularly in developing countries where resources are limited. We know a lot about the disease, we have cost-effective interventions for saving lives, and when implemented, the rapid and tangible impacts are clearly recognised by communities, building trust and confidence and reversing cycles of neglect.

At present the gap between human and animal health receives very little political attention or resources, especially in developing countries. Instigating a One Health approach for rabies therefore needs top-level political leadership to create formal ways for human and veterinary systems to link up. With most veterinary budgets focussed on controlling livestock diseases of economic value, governments and external funders need to recognise the value of veterinary interventions in supporting public health and ensure sufficient resources for mass dog vaccinations and surveillance. Community outreach and education programmes need to be in place to encourage people to have their dogs vaccinated and registered and to report incidents to relevant authorities. At the same time, treatment for people suspected of rabies exposure must be made accessible and affordable. But in a few short years, governments would be able to show demonstrable results in rabies reduction, creating new networks, building capabilities, and laying the foundations for tackling other zoonotic diseases.

There are already many measures in place to eliminate dog-mediated rabies and establish One Health in practice. A global strategy has been agreed by the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Gavi, the global vaccines alliance, plans to add human post-exposure vaccine to its schedule in the next few years, making this costly medicine more widely available to the world’s poorest people. The OIE is working with endemic countries to create National Rabies Control Programmes. Kenya and Tanzania have established One Health and Zoonotic Disease Units, and technical experts from the East African region have been developing a coordinated regional rabies elimination plan. Numerous NGO-led dog vaccination and education projects are run every year and work is underway to create a One Health financial facility to support mass dog vaccination and enable the scaling-up of rabies elimination efforts.

The Covid-19 pandemic has focussed global attention on the need to build One Health systems and rabies control offers a practical way forward. It will take more money and political engagement, especially from national governments, but in the face of a pathogen like coronavirus, we need to make One Health a reality, and there is little time to lose.

*Professor Sarah Cleaveland OBE, MRCVS FMedSci FRSE FRS is Professor of Comparative Epidemiology, University of Glasgow.

Professor the Lord Alexander “Sandy” Trees MRCVS, FMedSci, HonFRSE is a Crossbench Member of the House of Lords, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Parasitology and former Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool

Non-stun slaughter – Why not a precautionary tale?

The number of sheep and goats slaughtered without stunning has doubled in the last six years, with an estimated 3.3 million (27%) not stunned in 2017. A Food Standards Agency survey for England and Wales estimates that 184 million poultry and 21 thousand cattle were also slaughtered without an effective stun in 2017 (see VPRF Non-stun slaughter Fact File)

EU and UK law require all livestock at abattoirs to be stunned and therefore rendered unconscious and insensible to pain before slaughter. The EU uses a ‘Precautionary Principle’ for policy areas where scientific evidence may be uncertain, but there is reasonable concern for harm to environmental, human or animal health. Despite a body of scientific evidence of harm, the use of non-stun slaughter by some religious groups is allowed in the UK but non-stun slaughter is banned in several countries around the world.

The UK legislation (Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing, WATOK) requires that for non-stun slaughter, each animal has a rapid, uninterrupted cut to the neck by hand-held knife to sever both carotid arteries and jugular veins. The animal must be restrained suitably and be left still during exsanguination for a minimum defined time post-cut. The majority of red meat (63% sheep, 75% cattle) slaughtered for halal is reversibly stunned but the remainder is not. This meat, along with 70% of meat from non-stunned kosher carcasses, enters the market unlabelled.

chicken behind fence NSS slaughter fact file

Several studies have measured time to loss of consciousness (and therefore sensibility to pain and distress) through a variety of methods including loss of posture. Following non-stun slaughter and across several studies, poultry reportedly took 12-15 seconds following throat cut before signs of unconsciousness were apparent. In sheep this was between 2-14 seconds and in cattle between 11seconds in some cases over 4minutes (cattle time to collapse may be longer due to a unique alternative blood supply to the brain).

Recently there has been much public support to recognise that animals are sentient, and therefore able to suffer pain and distress. ‘We are a nation of animal lovers’ the papers declare and Ministers repeatedly emphasise our proud record of high animal welfare. With programmes such as Blue Planet capturing the imagination of the world (apparently the most viewed TV programme of 2017), and conversations around the sustainability and morality of our diets being brought into the mainstream by films such as Cowspiracy, Okja and Carnage; why is the UK struggling to agree when it comes to stunning animals before slaughter?

Lord Trees – the only Veterinarian in parliament – will ask in the House of Lords ‘what is to be done to minimise the number of animals slaughtered without stunning?’ on Wednesday 7th February 15h00

A question of Animal Sentience?

This issue has been a subject of interest for us, other Parliamentarians and particularly the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for some time but rejection of the Amendment (New Clause 30) to the Withdrawal Bill in the House of Commons on 15th November has heightened interest. At the Veterinary Policy Research Foundation we have compiled an Animal Sentience Briefing which summarises this fast moving situation.

The Withdrawal Bill seeks to transpose EU regulations into UK law but Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty  will not automatically become UK law as it is not an EU regulation.  Article 13 has been regarded as important by animal welfare organisations[1] as it puts an onus on EU member states, in formulating policies, to pay full regard to animal welfare requirements since animals are sentient beings. The amendment (New Clause 30) moved by Caroline Lucas MP, proposed that the principle with respect to animal sentience expressed in Article 13 should be included in the Withdrawal Bill. The amendment was rejected with a Government majority of 18.

Although much media coverage focused on this as a disagreement about whether animals were sentient or not, it has since been clarified by the Secretary of State for Defra[2], Michael Gove, that the amendment was voted down as a ‘poorly drafted and inappropriate way’ of delivering the aims of Article 13. Moreover, it is legally arguable that the Animal Welfare Act already implicitly recognises that animals are sentient.

The existing legislation within the Animal Welfare Act places the onus of responsibility for the care of animals on the keepers of those animals. Article 13 imposes duties on the state. This is the real and critical aspect of this debate.

Before and after the 15th November vote (see below) Government ministers have given assurances that they are exploring how the sentience of animals can be best enshrined in UK law.

You may rest assured that the VPRF and a number of MPs particularly associated with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare (APGAW) and outwith Parliament, the BVA are actively working to hold the government to that commitment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You will see that in a debate in the House of Lords on Brexit: Agriculture and Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare on 17th October 2017 I asked within my speech a specific question with regard to sentience:

“…with regard to the withdrawal Bill and animal welfare, while the Secretary of State has given some assurances about the important legal principles set out in the EU treaties, can the Minister explain, in writing if necessary, which of the principles of animal sentience and environmental laws will be recognised as general principles under the terms of the withdrawal Bill? Importantly, can he confirm whether they will apply to future government decision-making and judgments in court?” Lord Trees full spoken contribution can be found at: https://goo.gl/fhg4Fd

 

Ministerial response (Lord Gardiner) to Lord Trees question, by letter to Lord Teverson 3/11/17:

“Lord Trees asked which of the principles of animal sentience and environmental laws will be recognised as general principles under the terms of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and whether they would apply to future government decision-making and judgements in court. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill will convert the existing body of direct EU animal welfare and environmental laws to become UK laws. It will make sure that the same protections are in place in the UK and laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.

The Withdrawal Bill will preserve environmental principles where they are included in existing EU legislation and case law. We recognise the importance of these issues and will listen carefully to the views of Parliament as the Bill progresses. Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) created a qualified obligation on the EU and EU Member States “to have full regard [to] the welfare of animals as they are sentient being” when formulating and implementing certain EU laws. Existing domestic law such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the various Welfare Codes made under it already protect animals where there is clear scientific evidence that they are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. Its scope is capable of being extended where the science justifies.

We are exploring how the ‘animal sentience’ principle of Article 13 can continue to be reflected in the UK when we leave the EU.”

 

In Parliament on 23rd November 2017, the Secretary of State Michael Gove delivered a Written Ministerial Statement in the Commons which you will find referred to in the briefing document and below [2].

 

Acknowledgement: we are very grateful to Dr. Michael Radford, University of Aberdeen for his expert legal interpretation of this issue.

[1] Compassion in World Farming

https://assets.ciwf.org/media/7431218/note-on-the-absence-of-article-13-tfeu-from-repeal-bill-002.pdf

[2] Written Ministerial Statement, Defra, 23.11.17

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-secretary-confirms-sentience-of-animals-will-continue-to-be-recognised-and-protections-strengthened-when-we-leave-the-eu

 

Making Brexit work for animal welfare

Lord Trees spoke on 17 October in the House of Lords in a debate on the EU subcommittee reports on Brexit: agriculture and Brexit: farm animal welfare with Defra Minister Lord Gardiner.

AJT Brexit animal welfare debate

He took the opportunity to ask the Minister for further clarity on the rights of non-UK EU vets to continue to work in the UK post Brexit, he emphasised the role of vets in underpinning trade, sought assurances that animal welfare standards would not slip as a consequence of setting up new trading relationships and also spoke on the need to transpose medicines regulations into UK law to ensure that current and future medicines required for animal health are available. More generally he also asked the Minister if the Government have considered how financial inducements might be used to help to maintain animal welfare standards (e.g. during reform of farming subsidy payments) and to ensure that the EU Withdrawal Bill includes General Principles of EU law such as the Lisbon Treaty (Article 13) which requires the sentience of animals to be recognised in making and interpreting current and future laws.

Defra Minister, Lord Gardiner’s reply stated:

Lord Gardiner

“In government we absolutely recognise the key role played by vets in ensuring high animal welfare and health standards. Indeed, the Prime Minister specifically made it clear that securing the status of the veterinary workforce is a top priority. It has been my privilege to meet many EU nationals who serve in our veterinary profession and I can say how important they are to us.”

He mentioned welfare standards several times, re-iterating the Government’s position that the UK’s current standards of animal welfare will be maintained post Brexit. He also stated that the Government plans “to replicate broadly the EU’s current schedule of WTO commitments” in its future trade agreements allowing tariffs to be maintained at current level but acknowledging that decreases in tariffs can adversely impact farmers, consumers and the food industry.

In response to concerns about the negative impact of cuts in Defra funding and reduction in the Defra workforce he stated that Defra have recruited 450 additional staff, comprising policy generalists and specialists to support their comprehensive exit programme. More than 350 have already taken up posts, with the remainder currently progressing through the pre-appointment processes.

He confirmed The Secretary of State (Michael Gove’s) recent announcement that the Government intends to publish draft legislation for consultation “around the turn of the year” to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences from six months to five years in prison.

He also referred to the Government’s manifesto commitment to “take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter” as we leave the EU as well as to require CCTV in every slaughterhouse in England.

A full transcript of the debate is available here.

UK Government publishes Brexit Policy on Science and Innovation

Today the UK Government published a policy paper which outlines the UK’s objectives for a science and innovation agreement with the EU post Brexit. The full document is available here. Some key points particularly relevant for veterinarians are summarised below:

Movement of people

The UK Government has stated that whilst freedom of movement will cease to apply in the UK after we leave the EU, the UK will continue to welcome “the brightest and the best” and, as such, migration between the UK and the EU will continue.

The UK is seeking to agree a continued system for mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

European Medicines Agency (EMA)

UK Government is fully committed to continuing the close working relationship with the EMA to ensure that patients in the UK and across the EU continue to be able to access the best and most innovative medicines and be assured that their safety is protected by the strongest regulatory framework and sharing of data.

The EU has specific agreements in place with USA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, New Zeeland and Israel covering inspections, safety of medicines and exchange of information. These provide precedents which the UK and EU could seek to build on.

Horizon 2020

This is the largest EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme to date with nearly 80 billion euros of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020).

The UK is a highly active participant in Horizon 2020 ranking first across the EU in the number of participants with signed contracts (7,360 so far).

UK Government has promised to underwrite bids for Horizon 2020 projects submitted while the UK is still a member of the EU.

Precedents exist for non-EU participation in EU science and innovation programmes. For example, there are currently 16 non-EU countries formally associated with Horizon 2020.

After the UK leaves the EU, terms of association (including financial contributions) will be determined by international agreements with the EU.

The UK Government would also like to explore forging a more ambitious and close partnership with the EU than any yet agreed between the EU and a non-EU country.

Non-EU collaboration

Some of the UK’s most important collaborators lies outside the EU, notably the USA (as the UK’s top research partner), Australia, China, Canada and Japan.

The UK is a member several international European organisation which are not part of the EU. These include the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and EUREKA (an intergovernmental network helping small and medium sized enterprises to collaborate on R&D across borders to bring innovative ideas to market).

Lord Trees presses Home Office Minister over veterinary workforce shortage

On  17 July the House of Lords debated the EU Committee report on Brexit: UK-EU movement of people. Lord Trees took this opportunity to speak on the workforce issues affecting the veterinary profession.

He outlined key statistics concerning veterinary workforce shortages and asked the Home Office Minister Baroness Williams:

  1. Can the Minister assure the House that non-UK EU nationals currently working in vital sectors such as veterinary science will be given the same rights in the future which mirror those that would have applied were we to remain in the EU?
  2. What is the Government doing to inform EU nationals in their own countries that they are welcome and under what conditions?
  3. Will the Home Office restore vets to the Shortage Occupation List – from which they were removed in 2011?

In her reply the Minister stated:

“The noble Lord, Lord Trees, talked about the shortage of vets following the UK exit. We have made it clear that both the best and brightest will continue to be welcome to come to the UK, and future policy will be based on the future consideration of the evidence. I am sure the veterinary profession will want to contribute to that evidence picture. The noble Lord gave a number of significant statistics, and they will certainly form part of the consideration. The noble Lord also suggested that vets should be on the shortage occupation list. ​That list is produced by the independent Migration Advisory Committee, and the Government do not act independently of the MAC in this regard.”

and

“The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked what steps the Government were taking to make it clear to EU nationals that they are welcome in the UK. We have made it clear that so long as the UK remains a part of the EU, EU citizens have full rights to come here and remain welcome. We have made this point clearly and repeatedly.”

The full transcript of his speech is available here: http://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2017-07-17/debates/C046AC3A-0357-41FF-A40E-7210AD6BC5BD/BrexitUK-EUMovementOfPeople(EUCReport)#contribution-26D32A73-7F82-455C-A287-1C8DCDC73C34

The debate was paused for a statement on Schools and continues here (Minister’s reply is at the end):

http://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2017-07-17/debates/57244431-1ABB-4DC4-92C4-5D8AF856B6FE/BrexitUK-EUMovementOfPeople(EUCReport)

Lord Trees’ contribution was warmly received by the House including by:

 

Lord Cormack “We have just heard in the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, how a very small but vital sector of our economy could indeed be damaged in a most dangerous way if we do not behave with suitable sensitivity.”

Lord Stunell “I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Trees, had to say about vets—for recruiting, retraining, mentoring and developing a UK workforce.”

Lord Kennedy “The noble Lord, Lord Trees, highlighted the problems regarding the challenges Brexit poses to the veterinary profession, and to other science and healthcare professions. He made the point well in respect of Brexit further exposing the risk and the crisis that is looming large.”