Veterinarians are faced with significant conflicts of interest when issuing certificates for the transport and slaughter of acutely injured and casualty livestock. In a recent Policy Delphi study, emergency and casualty slaughter certification was a key concern identified by veterinary professionals in Ireland. In this case study (the third in a series of three resulting from a research workshop exploring challenges facing the veterinary profession in Ireland; the other two case studies investigate clinical veterinary services and the on-farm use of veterinary antimicrobials), we aim to provide a value-based reflection on the constraints and opportunities for best practice in emergency and casualty slaughter certification in Ireland. Using a qualitative focus group approach, this study gathered evidence from relevant stakeholders, namely a representative from the regulatory body, local authority veterinarians with research experience in emergency slaughter, an animal welfare research scientist, official veterinarians from the competent authority, a private veterinary practitioner, and a member of a farming organisation. Results revealed a conflict between the responsibility of private veterinary practitioners (PVPs) to safeguard the welfare of acutely injured bovines on-farm and the client's commercial concerns. As a consequence, some PVPs may feel under pressure to certify, for example, an acutely injured animal for casualty slaughter instead of recommending either on-farm emergency slaughter or disposal by the knackery service. Among Official Veterinarians, there are concerns about the pressure within processing plants to accept acutely injured livestock as casualty animals. Confusion pertaining to legislation and definition of fitness to travel also contribute to these dilemmas. Conflicts of interest arise due to the gap between governance and provision to facilitate on-farm emergency slaughter of livestock. Increased availability and acceptance of on-farm emergency slaughter by Food Business Operators (FBOs) would mitigate the need to certify acutely injured animals fit for transport and slaughter and thereby safeguard animal welfare. In the absence of nationwide availability and acceptance of on-farm emergency slaughter by FBOs, consideration should be given to methods to encourage all those involved in the food chain to prioritise animal welfare when in conflict with the commercial value of the animal. Training and guidelines for PVPs on the regulatory landscape and ethical decision-making should become available. The reintroduction of the fallen animal scheme should be considered to support farm animal welfare.
University College Dublin ->