Vets should be removed from small abattoirs as they are a ‘totally unnecessary control’ and do not provide any animal health or welfare benefits, an industry body has claimed.
Norman Bagley, head of policy at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), made the remarks after campaigners at the Oxford Real Farming Conference called for small abattoirs to receive financial support from Government for the ‘public goods’ they provide.
While Mr Bagley agreed small abattoirs provide the public good of linking producers directly to consumers, he suggested more could be done to deal with the burdensome bureaucracy which had contributed to the closure of one third of plants over the past decade.
According to Mr Bagley, removing vets from small abattoirs – who have only been in place for the past 20 years – would be one such step.
“Quite simply, vets are not needed in these small plants other than if a plant operator calls in his local vet if he thinks an animal has a problem,” he said.
“Vets confer no benefit to animal health, public health or animal welfare. They are a totally unnecessary control.
“Plant staff should also be able to be trained as inspectors, as in the poultry sector, further reducing bureaucracy at zero risk to public health and animal welfare.”
Mr Bagley went on to suggest a recent law forcing small abattoirs to install CCTV made the presence of a vet at the slaughterhouse even less necessary.
His comments came as Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Llyr Gruffydd warned a potential new rule barring EU workers earning under £30,000 from entering the UK could bring about a ‘crisis’ in Welsh abattoirs.
The earnings threshold was recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), commissioned by the UK Government to put together a blueprint for a post-Brexit immigration system, but has not been accepted by Ministers who are to consult on the matter.
Mr Gruffydd said: “Starting salaries for vets who monitor standards, food safety and animal health and welfare in abattoirs are in the mid-£20,000s, meaning imposing this threshold could jeopardise this vital and specialist section of the workforce.”