Pet Gazette March 2019 - Page 17

SOAPBOX | PET GAZETTE | 17 an expensive and timely process which not all recruiters can afford to take on. As well as this, EU veterinary professionals will need to meet the minimum salary requirement of £30,000 pa in order to be eligible for a work visa in the first place. Even if some vets are able to meet this threshold, the same is unlikely to be said about other professions who are responsible for animal welfare in the UK. European farmhands, technicians, abattoirs and animal researchers, for example, will no longer be able to work in such roles in the UK, based on their average salaries. With this, all UK farmers will be required to pay an application charge for every work visa they want to sponsor, adding a further financial burden to those positioned in the industry. INHUMANE PRACTICES any profit at supermarkets after Brexit. With this in mind, most will be less likely to want to adopt new animal welfare practices at an extra cost; instead opting to cut costs wherever possible. Add this to the weakened pound predicted in the aftermath of Brexit, and animals will become part of the collateral damage in a situation where UK farmers struggle to stay financially afloat. What’s more, according to a report written by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) this summer, the UK Farming industry is at great risk of losing very substantial parts of its workforce as a result of Brexit. According to the report, up to 40% of staff on UK farms are from the EU. This number is even more saturated in some sub-sectors, with EU labour contributing to as much as 58% on some poultry farms during seasonal peaks (such as turkey farms at Christmas). Along with this, even more migrant workers contribute to skilled workforces such as veterinary staff. A House of Lords report titled ‘Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare’ found that a huge 90% of UK vets originated from the EU. Leaving the EU risks alienating and losing significant amounts of EU talent and labour. This will jeopardise the future of animal welfare, by placing a strain on the services which are responsible for maintaining its future. VISA REQUIREMENTS Nigel Gibbens, chief veterinary officer, picked up on this point in his recent speech on ‘International trade post-Brexit’. “All I can say is that you’re essential,” Gibbens told the EU vets who are currently working in the UK, “there is no future position we can be in where we can operate without you”. Further to this comment, Gibbens also suggested that the Home Office add the veterinary profession to the Shortage Occupation List, to make it easier for British employers to non-UK hire vets after Brexit. However, it is unclear what difference this will make to the future of the vet profession. According to the most recent immigration white paper, the strict procedures which were in place for employers offering jobs to non-shortage professions have now been dropped, leaving ‘in-shortage’ employers no advantage when it comes to visa sponsorship. What’s more, even if vets are added to the Shortage Occupation List, this will do nothing to help resolve the inevitable gaps which will be left in the industry. According to the white paper, EU nationals arriving in the UK after Brexit will be subject to exactly the same visa regulations as non-EU migrants. This means employers will still need to make a Sponsor Licence application in order to sponsor EU work visas in the future – All we know now is that Brexit will spell the end of the current animal welfare regulations held in the UK. However, we do not know yet whether this will be a positive or negative for the future of animal welfare in Britain. While some, like David Bowles of the RSPCA have suggested that “Brexit offers huge opportunities to give animals a better deal in the UK”, it debatable as to whether the current government has any interest in doing so. In November, an amendment to the Agriculture Bill was debated in parliament, which suggested a total ban on all imports of foie gras. Foie gras involves the force- feeding of young geese and ducks and its production in the UK has been banned since 2000. However, due to free trade laws, the UK is still able to import foie gras from places like France and it is served in many upmarket British restaurants. Unfortunately, this proposition was not taken forward by the government and, while some are being hopeful about our new-found freedom over animal welfare laws, there is a concern that this is only a sign of things to come. Since we can no longer rely on the EU for our trade and policies after Brexit, animal rights need to be fought for if we want to continue to evolve and treat our animals with respect and kindness. This article has been written by Luna Williams, the political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service. This is an organisation which provides Brexit advice and visa application services in the UK. March 2019