Murdoch University has announced a partnership with the Department of Agriculture to address a key staff shortage in the monitoring of Australian abattoirs. Following the development of an intensive 12-week course for final year veterinary students interested in animal welfare, public health and food safety, the program is intended to motivate students to consider a career in this non-traditional type of veterinary practice.
Since the implementation of the course, which includes relevant legislation and key aspects of food safety and animal welfare, six of the nine enrolled students have gone on to take positions as on plant vets [OPVs] overseeing animal welfare and food safety in export abattoirs, with three more enrolled for later this year. “Work as an OPV is considered a non-traditional role for vet graduates but vital for the functioning of Australia’s food production industry said Dr Michael Laurence, one of course’s three key initiators. “The job involves examining animals before and after slaughter to check for disease and ensuring that abattoir staff maintain the highest standards of ethical, legal and safe practice.” OPVs are responsible for certifying meat that is produced for human consumption.
“It is tremendous for the department, which is now benefiting from a steady stream of OPVs to employ, helping them with their succession planning as more experienced vets currently in these roles near retirement,” Dr Laurence said. “For the students, it’s a fantastic career opportunity.” He cites the higher salary than traditional vets and the shorter training period as attractive to graduating veterinarians.
Samson Lui, a Murdoch University veterinary graduate, has been working as an OPV in Esperance, Western Australia, for the past yar, and said the career enabled him to be a veterinarian who contributes to the health of the general public nationally. “It is very rewarding knowing that my team and I have contributed to promoting food safety and Australian standards,” he said. “Working as an OPV cultivates my skills in leadership and management, and also offers rewarding career aspects.” The Department of Agriculture offers opportunities and support for continuing education.