Farm groups have welcomed the news that small abattoirs are to benefit from public funding under the terms of the Agriculture Bill.
As the legislation passed through the House of Lords, Ministers confirmed slaughtering would be recognised as one of the ‘ancillary services’ eligible for cash – a key ask of the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) and Campaign for Local Abattoirs.
The two groups said the move was the ‘first sign’ that the Government, which has long said animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible, was actually willing to help small abattoirs financially and stem the tide of closures.
The latest figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) show the UK has 62 small abattoirs.
As of April 2020, there were 13 fewer small abattoirs than there were in April 2016, down from 96 in 2007 – a drop of one third over the past decade.
Patrick Holden, SFT chief executive, said: “Much more needs to be done to ensure support actually materialises and that it is used in the most effective way.
“But this is a very important victory for common sense and should help to ensure producers of high welfare, locally-produced meat from environmentally sustainable farms can continue marketing direct to consumers.”
Christopher Price, chief executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, also welcomed the news.
He said: “The abattoir network needs to change to reflect the way livestock farming is changing.
“Most importantly, it needs to be able to process non-standard breeds supplied in small numbers and do so to the highest welfare and environmental standards.
“It is hard to see how this can happen fast enough, and be sufficiently wide ranging, without Government support – at least in the short term.
“This means capital grants for those local abattoirs which still exist to get them up to scratch and investment in mobile and micro units where the abattoirs have gone.”
The SFT has also called on Government to commission a study into the issue of falling incomes from hides and skins, which have seen many abattoirs lose a significant revenue stream.