The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) has called on Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to publish the outcome of an internal review that looked at its response to animal welfare concerns raised by a former department vet.

The vet in question, Dr. Tamara Bronckaers, won a landmark action against the department after she discovered livestock movement rules were being “abused” by livestock markets in Northern Ireland.

When Dr. Bronckaers raised the issue she found senior staff within the department to be unsupportive of her concerns, admonishing her for pursuing the issue, ultimately resulting in her constructive dismissal.

USPCA chief executive Brendan Mullan said that the society is "deeply troubled" by the department's handling of these animal welfare breaches.

“This case raises many serious concerns for the USPCA," he said.

"We believe that the outcome of DAERA’s internal review should be published and opened to external scrutiny in order to provide much-needed assurance to the public that they accept responsibility for their failings and are going to do something about it.

“We need DAERA to be accountable for their failings and put measures in place to ensure history is not repeated.

"The fact that the Department was going to appeal the Tribunal decision unfortunately begs the question as to how serious they are in addressing the issues raised."

Mullan also reiterated the importance on animal welfare standards.

“Unannounced inspections are a necessity in order to ensure high standards of animal welfare, and of course, biosecurity," he said.

"The fact is that we have an establishment here that has clearly broken the law and enforcement action should have been taken – otherwise what sort of message does this send to perpetrators of animal neglect?"