An alliance of more than 30 food and farming organisations has demanded the Government take urgent action to stop the ‘alarming’ decline in the UK’s small abattoir network.
The coalition, which includes the CLA, the Tenant Farmers’ Association and the National Sheep Association, wrote to Defra Secretary Michael Gove to ask him to set up a working party to look into the matter.
In the letter to Mr Gove, the groups pointed out that the Government was failing in its ambition to have farm animals slaughtered as close as possible to the place of production, highlighting shocking statistics which show 10 per cent of the country’s small abattoirs have closed in the past 12 months alone.
Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, one of the co-signatories to the letter, said: “The sale of locally-produced meat helps to keep many family farmers in business and has huge benefits for consumers and the environment.
“For the first time in my farming lifetime, Defra is genuinely striving to develop a more sustainable food system with additional focus on animal welfare. But that could come unstuck if we lose more local abattoirs.
“Without local slaughtering, there will be no traceable local meat. It is as simple as that.”
The call to action comes shortly after Moray’s only remaining abattoir was closed following the Dunbia-Dawn Meats merger and Bakers of Nailsea, a Somerset slaughterhouse dating back to the late 1800s, shut its doors for the last time.
John Mettrick, chairman of National Craft Butchers and owner of a small abattoir in Derbyshire, pointed to ‘gold-plated regulations’ and ‘excessive paperwork’ as factors which are threatening the industry’s existence.
In order to tackle the problem, the alliance suggested the proposed working party explore how regulatory and other barriers to the survival of local abattoirs can be addressed without compromising food safety or animal welfare.
The aim is to ensure all farmers producing meat for local markets have access to slaughtering facilities within economically viable distances.