‘Save small abattoirs!’ says industry letter to Gove
With small abattoirs closing at an ‘alarming rate’, 34 organisations from across the food sector have written to Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove, calling for urgent action.
The letter is signed by groups ranging from the Women’s Institute through to the National Sheep Association and describes the network of smaller abattoirs across the UK as a ‘huge national asset’.
The signatories state that small abattoirs enable thousands of family farmers to supply meat to a growing number of customers, either directly or via retail and catering outlets.
According to the letter, although the Government has indicated it prefers farm animals to be slaughtered close to the place of production, statistics show that the opposite is happening. A third of small abattoirs have closed in the past ten years and closures are continuing. A further 10% of small abattoirs have closed in the last 12 months, including Bakers of Nailsea which operated for 120 years.
John Mettrick, chairman of National Craft Butchers (NCB) and owner of a small abattoir in Derbyshire, said: “We have hit a perfect storm of problems: increased costs, rock bottom prices for hides and skins, some gold-plated regulations and excessive paperwork, much of it involving unnecessary duplication.”
Patrick Holden, chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, added: “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’s as simple as that.”
Michael Gove has acknowledged the problem facing producer-retailers who lose their local abattoir and the signatories now want him to take urgent action to help the smaller abattoir sector, which is in danger of further contraction.
The organisations have suggested Defra sets up a group to advise on how best to resolve the regulatory and other problems besetting smaller abattoirs in order to ensure their continued survival.
The Campaign for Local Abattoirs, which coordinated the joint letter, was established by the Sustainable Food Trust and NCB to highlight challenges surrounding the supply of local meat.