There is a shortage of veterinarians in NI and increasing acceptance that we need an assured local supply, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots told MLAs at Stormont on Tuesday.
During Ministerial questions, he said that the Strategic Investment Board, the body which advises the Stormont Executive on the delivery of major projects, has been commissioned to undertake an analysis of potential local options for a vet school. The Board is expected to report within six to nine months, and will be supported by DAERA officials, with input from the two major universities in NI (Queen’s and the University of Ulster).
“It is an expensive course to undertake, so universities have to take all those things into account when bringing one forward. Nonetheless, it would be hugely beneficial for NI, as well as for whichever university or collaboration of universities took up the opportunity” Minister Poots said.
He pointed out that as well as having excellent research facilities at AFBI, NI also has a number of large pharmaceutical companies that could tie in with a specialist veterinary course.
He was also asked whether new checks at ports linked to the NI Protocol has put extra pressures on vet resources in NI. Unless things change, Minister Poots maintained that 600 officials will be required at ports to undertake inspections, including close to 200 vets.
“The problem is this: if we draw vets from other services, are we damaging animal welfare? It therefore certainly does have a very significant impact” he told UUP leader Steve Aiken.