UK's new agri trade commission 'lacks veterinary expertise'

Veterinary professionals have raised concerns over the commission's 'balance of expertise'
Veterinary professionals have raised concerns over the commission's 'balance of expertise'

Concerns have been raised with the government over the balance of veterinary expertise on the new trade and agriculture commission.

The commission has been established to help inform post-Brexit trade policy and make recommendations for government.

It will be chaired Tim Smith, a former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency and Tesco Group technical director.

All five of the UK’s farming unions are represented on the commission - the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, Ulster Farmers' Union and Farmers' Union of Wales.

But the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has raised 'serious concerns' with international trade secretary Liz Truss over the commission's 'balance of expertise'.

The UK vet body has pointed to the fact that only one member of the 16-strong commission is a veterinary surgeon.

It has called for veterinary expertise to be at the heart of the commission's membership and remit, specifically asking for BVA representation.

But when the Department for International Trade announced the membership on 10 July, it revealed that while nine members were representing industry and retail bodies, only one member is a vet – former UK CVO Professor Nigel Gibbens.

BVA said it 'fully supported' the appointment of Professor Gibbens, but has called on Ms Truss to reconsider the decision not to include a representative from the association.

In a letter to the trade secretary, BVA president Daniella Dos Santos pointed to the fact that “veterinary surgeons have the unique role, responsibility and training to advocate for animal health and welfare.”

It comes as the RSPCA also questioned whether the commission had the necessary expertise in these matters to deliver on the government’s pledge to uphold standards in future trade deals.

Ms Dos Santos said including more veterinary representatives would 'enhance the commission’s credibility' as the British public felt 'strongly' about maintaining the UK’s high standards.

“International trade in animal products cannot happen without the veterinary profession," she added.

"We are uniquely qualified to safeguard animal health and welfare and public health and we should be well represented on the commission."