6 October 1995

Live exports put at risk by veterinary principles

By Liz Mason

LIVE exports could come to a sudden halt if vets abided by a code of conduct laid down by the professions governing body.

Somerset vet Roger Eddy told the British Veterinary Association annual congress in Winchester that vets could not adhere to principles agreed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons when signing export certificates. This left them open to prosecution by trading standards officers and disciplinary action by the RCVS.

"We would like to operate to the 12 principles of certification, but if we did the export of livestock would stop tomorrow and that is not an exaggeration."

The difficulty has arisen because vets often had to rely on owners declarations or declarations of a third party when signing export certificates. "The 12 principles state quite clearly that if there is information in the knowledge of a third party certification should be by that third party not by a vet," said Mr Eddy.

Recent witness

He said he had recently acted as a witness in a North Wales court case where a vet was appealing against a prosecution by trading standards officers for aiding and abetting livestock dealers who had broken export rules.

The dealers, who were exporting calves to Italy, had not obeyed a rule requiring the animals to have been on their premises for 30 days.Mr Eddy said the vet took advice from his regional MAFF office and then signed a declaration stating that the calves had been on their premises for 30 days.

MAFFs chief vet, Keith Meldrum, said he could not support Mr Eddys assertion that the live export trade would stop if vets met the 12 certification principles. "That is not the case," said Mr Meldrum.

MAFF would not produce a certificate for a vet to sign if officials knowingly thought the vet would contravene the Veterinary Surgeons Act or the 12 principles, he said.