Whistleblower vet unfairly dismissed by DAERA after raising cattle concerns
A vet who blew the whistle on cattle traceability concerns and breaches of animal welfare at livestock markets was unfairly dismissed by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
Dr Tamara Bronckaers 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.
She said: “Animal welfare was a major concern for me and I witnessed first-hand animals suffering unnecessarily – in one livestock market, there were overloaded and unclean pens, lame sheep and cattle, and animals being left overnight without food or water.
“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.”
Dr Bronckaers told the tribunal failures involved deleting cattle moves under the Cattle Identification (Notice of Births, Deaths and Movements) Regulations (Northern Ireland 1999), alongside serious animal neglect and the movement of potentially TB infected cattle after they were purchased in a livestock market.
Her solicitor John McShane of McCartan Turkington Breen, added: “Dr Bronckaers has been extremely brave in coming forward to reveal her concerns about certain practices at the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the outcome of this case has justified those concerns.
“The situation has had a massive impact on Dr Bronckaers with her suffering detriments that have affected her family, career and financial situation. However she felt it was vital to do the right thing and that was to highlight the outrageous issues of animal welfare where she witnessed animals being mistreated.
“Dr Bronckaers hopes that the result of this case will encourage other people who find themselves in a similar situation to speak out.”
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