Northern Ireland’s vet strike – could impact Festive Supplies in Ireland

Northern Ireland’s vet strike – could impact Festive Supplies in Ireland

The strike by government vets comes at ‘worst possible time’ – and could seriously impact supplies in the run up to Christmas.

Government employed vets carry out checks on animals and some food products moving from Great Britain to NI, as well monitoring the operation of abattoirs.

They were on strike for five days, commencing 30th October until 3rd November.

Unless vets are in abattoirs, the slaughter of cattle, pigs, sheep or poultry cannot take place.

The vets are taking industrial action in a dispute over pay. Both of the post-Brexit green and red lanes at ports have been impacted.

Government vets perform controls and checks on animals and some food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

These controls are mostly a requirement of Northern Ireland’s Windsor Framework, following the Brexit deal.

They also monitor the operation of abattoirs and certify some meat exports.

Deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union John McClenaghan said he understands why the vets are striking but said the action has impacted different sectors in different ways.

“They gave a derogation around the poultry industry recognising the welfare issues that would be there if there wasn’t a capacity within the factories – so that has functioned normally,” he said.

“Both our pig factories have functioned at reduced capacity and probably the biggest effect has been in the red meat sector.

“But we’ve seen a little bit of movement on a rotational basis around the factories and that has taken the pressure off that supply coming in.”

Stormont’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said that it will, subject to capacity, “prioritise the slaughter and processing across the intensive livestock sector commencing with poultry, reviewing the situation daily and modifying service provision where capability allows.”

Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association said the strike will mean “meat plants will have to cease operations, causing loss of income for those businesses, and disrupting food supply chains”.

He added: “This is a particular worry as we enter the busiest period of the year in the run up to Christmas when our members are preparing festive products like hams and pigs-in-blankets for the Christmas market.”