Pauline Vooren, supervising veterinarian
Supervising veterinarian for the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
You can do more than just work at a veterinary practice with your veterinary qualification. After 5 years’ practical experience as a veterinarian, Pauline Vooren sought more challenging work than the inoculation of dogs and cats, amongst others. She now supervises all abattoir activities in the Veluwe poultry sector for the NVWA.
Watch Pauline Vooren at work
The NVWA is an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. that ensures companies and institutions involved with animals and animal products comply with laws and regulations. Those laws and regulations are of crucial importance to Pauline’s work: ‘If I see a violation of animal welfare, I can do something about it straight away. People are sometimes shocked that I work in an abattoir, but I explain it well.’
Food safety and animal welfare
Pauline first worked for the Kwaliteitskeuring Dierlijke Sector for six months, a private organisation that carries out quality assurance of red meat on behalf of the NVWA. ‘I wanted to be sure I could handle working in an abattoir. I dissected pork carcasses to assess whether the meat was suitable and safe for consumption. Rather than find it distressing, I recognised the value of national and European legislation and compliance with it. For both food safety and animal welfare. If you want to guarantee the welfare of animals in abattoirs from beginning to end, you need to be in the thick of it. That is exactly what I do now.
Observing and monitoring
As a supervising veterinarian, I monitor the whole process in the abattoir. That starts with the farmer who delivers the live chickens. I check on how they tolerated transport. Whether there are any welfare issues and whether they look healthy. They are then anaesthetised and slaughtered. I then check the carcasses to see whether the meat is in order. While doing that, I check whether all activities at the company are carried out hygienically. I do quite a bit of walking back and forth in a day.
European and national legislation provides back-up
I always feel welcome at the companies I visit. But there are times you need to highlight certain issues and produce a report that could lead to fines. That can be stressful. But European and national agreements have been made and we comply with those. That back-up in terms of what is permitted and what is not gives me the confidence to take action decisively. Based on what I have seen thus far, I would say that we slaughter correctly in the Netherlands.
I have my own little office at every abattoir. That sounds more luxurious than it is. I always call it my booth with a computer and a printer. That is where I process the findings of the day into a report. That variation between administration, a round of checks through the abattoir and liaison with the inspectors and the abattoir owner, combined with being able to contribute to animal welfare, means I always look forward to going to work.
Good work-life balance
My job at the NVWA fits in well with my home life. Now I have a son, I am temporarily working 16 hours a week instead of 32 hours. I sometimes have to get up very early because the fact is that abattoirs start early. But I am usually finished by early afternoon. Naturally, things go wrong sometimes, for example, a chain snaps and the slaughtering process takes an hour longer, but those are exceptions.’