6 October 1995

Trade description case unusual

VETS are open to prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act for wrongly signing export certificates.

But such cases are few and far between, Graham Venn, chairman of the trading standards animal health and welfare panel, told the BVA congress.

He said a recent prosecution by Shropshire officers, that had sparked alarm among vets, was brought after an investigation into calf exports to France. The vet who signed the export certificate applied a false trade description because he claimed to have examined 557 calves, when in truth he had examined only 207.

Mr Venn added he found no evidence to substantiate a newspaper report suggesting this type of abuse by vets was widespread.

More common, he suggested, were cases where vets appeared to put commercial interests before animal welfare. Mr Venn said he could quote many examples where vets were prepared to defend clients in welfare cases without having examined the animals in question. Instead their defence was based on photographs and what they had been told by farm workers, said Mr Venn.

He was amazed that the defence vet was prepared to come to court and suggest the prosecution vet, who had examined the animal, had got it wrong.

In other, not uncommon, cases private vets who declared an animal unfit at a livestock market had changed their diagnosis after discovering it belonged to his client.

"If commercial interests are put first then the welfare of animals will be compromised, and quite simply what these examples do in my mind is to bring your profession into disrepute," he said.