Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers has promised to look at the availability of abattoir facilities as part of the Government’s plan to reduce the amount of time livestock spend in transit.
Ministers have chosen to focus on regulating journey times to try to ‘choke off’ the practice of live exports, without introducing a blanket ban.
But the proposal to force farmers to send their livestock to the nearest abattoir, which emerged last September, was met with widespread ridicule in the industry.
During a press conference at Oxford Farming Conference last week, Ms Villiers reiterated the Government’s intention to press ahead with the plan to cut ‘excessively long’ journeys, but for the first time suggested she would be looking at boosting slaughterhouse access alongside any new rules.
“We must certainly as part of our decisions on this issue look at the availability of abattoir facilities and whether there is more which could be done in order to make sure farmers have good options available as close as possible,” she said.
“Obviously that is a crucial part of making sure we get the right decisions on how we regulate journeys.”
Christopher Price, chief executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, told Farmers Guardian it was ‘good’ that Government had recognised the abattoir network needed more attention, and set out two clear policy asks for Ministers.
“First, we need significant capital investment in existing abattoirs to ensure they can cater for changing markets,” he said.
“Second, the regulations covering mobile and pop-up abattoirs need examining to make sure they are not imposing any unnecessary or avoidable costs.
“If we can reduce costs without compromising standards, mobile abattoirs will be the way forward.”
Countryside Alliance head of policy, Sarah Lee, also welcomed Ms Villiers’ latest comments.
“The Government should use the opportunity of Brexit to look at ways of supporting small and medium-sized abattoirs which have struggled to cope with regulation from the EU,” she said.
“Reviving a network of small, local abattoirs would do far more to help reduce journey times than a simple ban on live exports.”