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Iceland is running out of meat because of a vet strike

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Meat processing comes to a halt without veterinarians to approve conditions

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A veterinarian strike in Iceland has pushed the country to the brink of a meat shortage, according to national media reports. Farmers say overcrowded facilities have jeopardized animal welfare, while supermarket chains say hundreds of tons of imported meat cannot be moved to processing plants because of the strike. Veterinarians are required to approve welfare conditions at slaughterhouses and must sign off on imported meat before it can be processed.

Iceland's veterinarians have been on strike since April 20th, as part of ongoing wage disputes with the government. Various trade unions and other members of the Association of Academics (BHM), including health professionals, have been on strike for more than a month, and further stoppages are on the horizon. According to the news website Iceland Review, the strike may encompass more than 70,000 workers by next month — nearly 40 percent of the country's work force.

"as of next weekend the frozen chicken will be finished."

That's created problems for the country's meat industry, because veterinarians must verify that all imports meet health standards before they can be moved to processing plants. It's also their responsibility to make sure all slaughterhouses meet animal welfare standards. The Icelandic Veterinary Association authorized the limited slaughtering of chickens and turkeys on animal welfare grounds late last month, but pig farmers say their farms are overcrowded, and supermarkets say they're still facing shortages. One manager told the newspaper Vísir that his supermarket chain could run out of ground beef nationwide by the end of next week.

"Fresh chicken is unavailable and as of next weekend the frozen chicken will be finished," Guðmundur Marteinsson, managing director of the supermarket chain Bónus, tells Iceland Review. "Beef will also be finished and so we will only be able to offer fish, lamb and pork for the barbecue."