The “elephant in the room” in the licenced merchants debate comes down the the regulatory body, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said.

Commenting on the matter, ICSA animal health chairman Hugh Farrell called on the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) to extend its portfolio to allow for the overseeing of licenced merchants in addition to vets and veterinary nurses.

Outlining his view that the biggest issue is not the incoming EU legislation but rather the question as to whether there is suitable regulatory oversight, Farrell said:

“The [matter] is if the Veterinary Council is able to regulate them as an independent body – and, if not, then there will have to be an alternative source to regulate all.”

Noting that the council said that it can only regulate the veterinary nurses and vets, the chairman point out that this leaves the licenced merchants out.

“That is not a way of dealing with the issue going forward, by getting rid of them and losing jobs and jeopardising the industry.

“They need some proper regulatory form to do that, whether the VCI extends its regulatory portfolio to do that or else an independent group has to be set up to do it,” Farrell said, claiming:

“If they were governed to oversee them and allow the veterinary then there would be no issue with the licenced merchants. That’s the big problem and that’s the elephant in the room.”

Farrell said that the alternative of cutting out licenced merchants is not acceptable:

“We can’t accept that, just because somebody can’t regulate it all [at present] – that they were not set up to do it, that somebody else takes the hit.

“It would potentially mean thousands of jobs [lost] and concerns that farmers would be going to pay extra for dosing over it,” he warned.