NI vet strikes will take farmers “months” to recover from, says BMPA
The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has stated that the impending strike action of Northern Irish vets and meat inspectors on Monday 30th October will take farmers months to recover from.
During the five-day strike, no slaughter of cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry can take place across the whole of Northern Ireland for that week as Official Veterinarians will not be on site in abattoirs.
The BMPA highlighted that the strike action will spark three issues:
- Animal welfare will be threatened, particularly in the pork sector, as pigs begin to back-up on farms
- Commercial issues will arise as animals become too big and ‘out of scope’ for supermarket shelves, resulting in farmers unable to sell their livestock. Because of the numbers of animals involved and the lack of income for businesses, it will take months to recover from the loss of those five production days.
CEO of the BMPA, Nick Allen, described the potential third consequence of the strike: “It will mean that meat plants will have to cease operations, causing loss of income for those businesses, and disrupting food supply chains.
“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.”
The BMPA claimed the strike action could also prove sensitive for the UK Government, which is currently working on an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) over the Windsor Framework. It said the vets’ walkout could expose the scale of border checks that are still needed to get food from the UK mainland to Northern Ireland – even through the new ‘green lane’ – and will demonstrate that the Irish Sea border has not been removed.
BMPA urges Government to engage with politicians
Allen explained: “Our members are extremely concerned over the lack information and a contingency plan. So far, they’ve heard nothing from the Northern Ireland Civil Service about if and how they plan to prioritise veterinary cover in meat plants to avoid causing animal welfare issues and disruption to the food supply chain.”
The BMPA said that with Stormont still not sitting, this will inevitably end up back in Westminster. On behalf of producers and processors, it urges Government to step in to engage with all parties, draw up some emergency plans and, ultimately, help to settle this dispute.