A whistleblower vet who raised “serious” concerns about animals’ welfare has won her case against the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera).
Dr Tamara Bronckaers told an industrial tribunal she felt she had to resign.
She said she resigned after being “excluded, ignored and undermined” when she brought issues to the department’s attention.
Dr Bronckaers worked for Daera for nearly two decades until April 2018.
In the course of her work, she found breaches of animal welfare at livestock markets.
She also uncovered failures in the way the movement of cattle was recorded at markets, and the abuse of a process called “deleted moves.
That, Dr Bronckaers claimed, could affect the traceability of meat within the food supply chain and have an impact on the spread of disease in cattle, in particular tuberculosis.
“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,” she said.
She added: “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.”
Dr Bronckaers’ solicitor John McShane said she had tried to raise her concerns with the department.
“Whenever those representations, those concerns, through a period of over a year, had been forcefully put forward, the line from the department was simply to ignore it,” he said.
“To present Dr Bronckaer as being a nuisance, to humiliate her, to denigrate her, and to ultimately leave her in a position where she felt no option but to resign from her employment of nearly 20 years and all the financial implications of that, and the distress to her and also her family.”
The tribunal concluded that Dr Bronckaers had been unfairly dismissed.