Leading voices from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Northern Ireland branch issued a stark warning to the UK Parliament, emphasizing the imminent threat of a “public health emergency” in Northern Ireland unless a lasting solution for veterinary medicines access is secured.

BVA NI President Esther Skelly-Smith, along with Past President and Honorary Secretary Mark Little and Past President Simon Doherty, presented their concerns before the House of Lords European Affairs Select Committee Windsor Framework Sub-Committee on January 17, 2024.

The House of Lords sub-committee is currently engaged in an inquiry into the Windsor Framework, focusing on the ongoing issue of access to veterinary medicines post-Brexit, particularly concerning the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The testimonies highlighted the urgency of finding a permanent solution to ensure the unimpeded access to crucial veterinary medicines.

Implications of Looming Grace Period Expiry

The BVA representatives underscored the potential gravity of the situation if the existing grace period, allowing continued access under existing regulations, expires in 2025 without a concrete solution in place. They outlined that such an outcome could lead to a substantial loss of access to approximately 51% of veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland. This includes vital vaccines for zoonotic diseases like salmonella and leptospirosis, insulin crucial for the health of dogs and cats, and essential flu and tetanus vaccines for horses.

Esther Skelly-Smith, BVA NI President, also stressed the severe repercussions Northern Ireland could face if a permanent resolution is not swiftly implemented. The potential consequences range from a genuine public health emergency to severe implications for the farming industry. Additionally, the equine sector and companion animals may be at risk of devastating outcomes due to the unavailability of essential treatments.

Skelly-Smith emphasised, “It’s crucial a permanent solution is found to ensure the protection of Northern Ireland’s animal and public health and the agricultural economy is able to continue.”

Call to Action for Animal and Public Health Protection

The urgent call to action from BVA Northern Ireland additionally reinforces the necessity of prioritising a sustainable and permanent arrangement to safeguard the health of animals and the public in Northern Ireland. The consequences of inaction could extend to significant setbacks in agriculture and compromise the well-being of companion animals and equines.

The House of Lords European Affairs Select Committee will continue its inquiry into the Windsor Framework and veterinary medicines access, with the hope of addressing these pressing concerns and ensuring the continued well-being of animals and public health in Northern Ireland.