USPCA joins calls for Daera ‘accountability’ over vet’s concerns

A leading animal welfare charity has called on the department of agriculture (Daera) to make public its responses to the concerns raised by Stormont vet Dr Tamara Bronckaers.

By Mark Rainey
Monday, 25th April 2022, 7:59 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 8:02 pm

Ms Bronchaers has been awarded damages of £1.25 million following a tribunal’s finding that she was constructively dismissed from her job after expressing concerns over animal welfare and meat traceability.

She resigned after claiming that her managers repeatedly ignored her concerns and had subjected her to unfair treatment for highlighting the issues.

USPCA chief executive, Brendan Mullan, said: “Firstly, it is unacceptable that animals were denied the basic right of food, water and shelter, as was the case in instances documented by Dr Bronckaers.

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Dr Tamara Bronckaers with her solicitor John McShane from the firm McCartan Turkington Breen.

“Secondly, we are deeply troubled by the department’s handling of these blatant animal welfare breaches – instead of actively investigating the concerns, veterinary personnel were instructed to stop unannounced inspections and have these pre-arranged instead.

“In this instance, while we would urge for stronger enforcement action, a warning to the establishment[s] in question would have been a step in the right direction as it is important to work with the industry to improve standards. However, the department’s response went beyond this and halted all unannounced inspections”.

Mr Mullan added: “Overall, we need Daera to be accountable for their failings and put measures in place to ensure history is not repeated.”

Dr Bronckaers said the past few years “have been extremely harrowing for me and my family,” and added: “This outcome has been a long time coming and I can move on in the knowledge that I did what was right, and I now have a long-waited and justified apology from the department.

“I witnessed first-hand animals suffering unnecessarily and believe that over a five-year period in excess of 20,000 animals were involved in deleted moves which would have had significant implications for traceability within the supply chain.

“I strongly believed that the department was failing in its duty to protect animal welfare and therefore I couldn’t continue doing a job that I wasn’t being allowed to carry out ethically. I couldn’t sit back and watch these breaches persist.”

The vet’s solicitor John McShane said he believes the settlement is the largest of its type in Northern Ireland.

“I am quite simply astounded by Dr Bronckaers bravery. She was willing to do what was ethically right to the detriment of herself, her family, and her standard of living in retirement,” he said.

“It is a choice that very few people would make as the easier path would have been to keep quiet.”