Vet action: ‘Ultimately the farmers are the ones going to suffer’

As Temporary Veterinary Inspector (TVI) industrial action continues in meat plants around the country, concern is mounting among industry stakeholders, with farmers very much caught in the middle of the dispute.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine told AgriLand that the department is “very disappointed that the disruption to meat inspection services that commenced before Christmas continued last week”.

“The department continues to engage with all the relevant parties to resolve matters as soon as possible, to ensure industry can operate as normal and to avoid any potential animal welfare matters that could arise,” the spokesperson added.

Farmer response

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) expressed its concern with the ongoing action and hopes that the matter will be resolved quickly.

Spokesperson for the Beef Plan Movement, Eamon Corley, raised question marks over the timing of the action.

He said: “It certainly doesn’t suit any beef farmers for that dispute to be going on between the vets and the department because, ultimately, the farmers are the ones who are going to suffer.

“There’s a backlog of bulls now and the cow price has taken a real hit – particularly this back end, going into the new year. Particularly suckler cows – there’s O-grade suckler cows now at €2.80 and R grades at €2.90-3.00, which is a huge discount on this time last year.

It just makes a complete disaster of a year even worse – and it’s like it more or less suits the factories.

“The farmers deliberately stayed away from industrial action because it was the wrong time of the year for it and it’s like the vets are answering their call by going on strike,” he contended.

“It didn’t have any heed or empathy with the farmers whatsoever.

“From our point of view it just makes a bad situation worse and it just goes to show that beef farmers are really on their own out there; no one cares about them.

“The vets don’t care about them, the department doesn’t care about them and the factories don’t care about them and it’s really up to us to sort the situation out,” Corley said.

Vets and industry response

Yesterday, Veterinary Ireland explained its reasoning for the work-to-rule, outlining a shortage of TVIs as one of the main issues, as well as the agreement made in November falling through.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has condemned the disruptive activity, describing it as “unacceptable”, and has called on both sides to end the dispute.