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A new parliamentary intern for Lord Trees
  1. Gabby Laing

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Last month, Gabby Laing became Lord Trees’ third intern. Her first few weeks have involved figuring out how different departments and organisations fit together as part of ‘government’.

The list of acronyms I’ve been faced with seems endless … but a few have already become mainstay terminology for me in this role. APPGs, (All Party Parliamentary Groups), for example, feature regularly and come in all shapes and sizes.

Lord Trees sits on several of these, but has recently been most heavily involved with APGAW (the All Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare) and the APPG on antibiotics — these complement each other nicely under the One Health umbrella.

I had the opportunity to attend BVA congress, which offers an opportunity to air diverse issues — from the rising popularity of brachycephalic dog breeds and the impact of the gendered nature of our profession to using good evidence in decision making. It was a great way to gain a new perspective on the veterinary landscape.

Being able to see the viewpoint of others is vitally important in this role. It has become apparent just how hard working and passionate policy people are. If I’m entirely honest – and despite having an interest in politics – it turns out I knew very little about how policy is made or the role of the Lords.

The debate around animal sentience has been a good demonstration of some of the challenges. The first debates I followed took place in October; they were the House of Lords Select Committee reports on ‘Brexit: Agriculture’, and ‘Brexit: Farm Animal Welfare’, in which Lord Trees specifically asked the minister about the issue of animal sentience.

Then, in mid November, when the House of Commons debated the Withdrawal Bill, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas introduced an amendment referring to animal sentience, which was rejected – this quickly became headline news.

Although media coverage focused on this being about whether animals were sentient or not, it has since been made clear by the government that it was voted down as a ‘poorly drafted and inappropriate way’ of delivering better animal welfare. As I started to get to grips with this issue, it appears that it is more an issue of legal subtleties than an ethical dilemma.

The Withdrawal Bill aims to transpose all EU regulations into UK law when we leave the EU. The challenge here is that the principle outlined in Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty (and proposed as an amendment to the Withdrawal Bill) is a Treaty and not a regulation.

Some argued that our current Animal Welfare Act would provide adequate provision for animals as sentient and therefore deserving of full regard for their welfare. However, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 places the responsibility on the keeper of the animal, whereas Article 13 puts an onus on the state to have due regard to animal sentience in formulating policy, which is the real and critical aspect of this debate.

On Tuesday (12 December), the minister for Defra, Michael Gove, proposed a new Animal Welfare Bill for 2018 saying: ‘Animals are sentient beings who feel pain and suffering, so we are writing that principle into law and ensuring that we protect their welfare’.

The draft Bill (www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/666576/draft-animal-welfare-bill-171212.pdf) is open for consultation until 31 January 2018, so please get involved.

Stay up to date with this and other policy issues on Twitter by following @Vet_Policy or visit the veterinary policy research foundation website (https://vprf.wordpress.com).

People

Willows Veterinary Group has appointed four new branch partners within the group, they are: Jamie Finney of Abbeycroft Veterinary Surgery in Northwich, Dan Walters of Middlewich Veterinary Surgery, Middlewich, Philippa Bradley of Orford Lane Veterinary Surgery in Warrington and Sian Coxon of Station House Veterinary Centre in Hale, near Manchester.

The group has 25 small animal surgeries, a referral veterinary hospital, two equine centres and a seven-office farm practice located across Cheshire and into the Wirral, Manchester, North Wales and Staffordshire. It is accredited by the RCVS.

Mark Proctor, senior partner, said: ‘At Willows Veterinary Group, we are always keen to invest in our team and look at ways of helping them to progress and develop their career and skills.

‘As an independent group, run by vets, we have built a network of surgeries and referral services for pets, farm animals and horses, where we have the freedom to offer the treatments and products we feel are correct for each individual animal.

‘As senior partners at Willows, we see ourselves as custodians of the group and its excellent reputation for animal care. The aim of introducing new partners to the fold is to ensure this high level of care remains at the fore of everything the Willows team does.’ www.willowsvetgroup.co.uk

From left: Jamie Finney, Sian Coxon, Philippa Bradley and Dan Walters have been appointed as branch partners for Willows Veterinary Group
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