DAERA apologises to whistleblower vet after dropping constructive dismissal appeal

DAERA apologises to whistleblower vet after dropping constructive dismissal appeal

DAERA has apologised to a senior vet who won a constructive dismissal case having blown the whistle over breaches of animal welfare at livestock markets as well as failings in the way cattle movements were recorded.

Dr Tamara Bronckaers won a landmark victory against the Stormont department in September and having now dropped its appeal against that ruling it has “agreed a settlement in principle between the parties, subject to detailed terms being drawn up”.

Dr Bronckaers, above, told an industrial tribunal she resigned after being “excluded, ignored and undermined” when she brought the  issues to the department’s attention, despite having worked for Daera for nearly two decades until April 2018.

One of her prime concerns was over the traceability of meat within the food supply chain and the spread of disease in cattle, in particular tuberculosis.

She said: “During my 19 years in the department, I tried to do what was right and I couldn’t carry on doing a job that I wasn’t being allowed to carry out ethically.

“For my own sanity and mental health I made the very difficult decision to leave the job. My whole family has suffered as a result but my husband and kids knew what I was going through and I had their full support.

“I believe in telling the truth and I also strongly believe that the Department has failed in their duty to protect animal welfare. I suspect that over the past five years in excess of 25,000 animals have been involved in deleted moves, resulting not only in issues around animal welfare but also detrimental implications for traceability within the supply chain.

“I would encourage anyone from any industry to speak out about issues or problems they recognise in their workplace.”

Having dropped its costly Court of Appeal case against the original ruling, a DAERA spokesman said: “The Department unreservedly apologises to Dr Tamara Bronckaers.

“The Department takes the protection of those raising a concern extremely seriously and has commissioned an internal review into this matter and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.

“This review will be completed as soon as possible.

“The Department has already completed an internal audit, focused on the robustness of the current controls for animal traceability in livestock markets and abattoirs and issues raised by Dr Bronckaers.

“That audit made a number of recommendations which are now being implemented with urgency.

“Maintaining high standards in animal traceability and associated disease risk is of the utmost importance and the Department remains confident that traceability and public health has never been at risk.”