12 July 2000
Consumers ‘didn’t back abattoir campaign’

By Alistair Driver

CONSUMERS are under fire for failing to back a campaign by more than 200 organisations aimed at saving small abattoirs from closure.

Organisations representing a range of farm, food and rural interests warn that agriculture minister Nick Brown has just one last chance to save small abattoirs.

Small meat-processing plants are under threat because ministers are refusing to implement recommendations which would lower their costs, they claim.

A recent independent report said small abattoirs should pay meat-inspection costs on the number of animals slaughtered, rather than on an hourly basis.

That would help smaller abattoirs – which slaughter fewer animals – compete with larger plants, which slaughter thousands of animals a day.

For the first time, the National Farmers Union and animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming are among the signatories this time.

But the Consumers Association refused to sign, saying it was not given enough time to digest the details and the issue was not a priority for the organisation.

That decision was criticised by Simon Brenman, development director of the Soil Association, one of the groups spearheading the campaign.

“I believe they were concerned that the changes meant removing regulations, even though the report made it clear there are no food safety issues involved.”

He added: “We have been seeking the broadest possible support because the changes could require up to 19 million of additional funding from the treasury.”

Closure of abattoirs would restrict consumer choice, said Mr Brenman.

The next move in the campaign is to hand a petition signed by over 100,000 people to Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for the proposals to be implemented.