THE FARMERS Union of Wales has expressed astonishment that DEFRA officials have met a farmer convicted of involvement in the illegal meat trade.

Just two days before Carmello Gale was due to appear before Swansea Crown Court charged with operating an illegal slaughterhouse, he held talks in London with DEFRA livestock strategy division civil servants.

John Thorley, National Sheep Association chief executive, representatives of the Food Standard Agency and Haringey Council illegal meat specialists were also present.

Mr Gale, from Llandyssul in west Wales, was convicted in June 2003 for transporting 124 sheep carcasses unfit for human consumption after his van crashed into a police car.

On Monday (May 17) he pleaded guilty to the unlicensed abattoir charge and was bailed for sentencing on June 20.   

At the meeting he gave details of how thin cull ewes were processed into smokies, or blow torched skin-on mutton carcasses.

The smokies are then marketed in African, Asian and Muslim communities.

“We cannot understand why Mr Gale was consulted about the process when the FSA and NSA already knew all the details,” said an FUW spokesman.

“Haringey Trading Standards Officers are also experts on the way the illegal trade operates.”

The meeting established a multi-agency taskforce to look at the possibility of producing smokies in licensed facilities.

This might be possible when a new EU regulation is enacted in 2006.