22 August 1997

Knackermen warn of threat to public health

KNACKERMEN have warned government that unless it reverses its plans to axe rendering support, then not only will full traceability of cattle be impossible, but public health could be threatened by contaminated water courses.

In a letter to junior farm minister Jeff Rooker, Bryan Shields, a partner with Staffs knackering firm A Parker, said the loss of rendering subsidy from next Mar would lead to more farmers burying fallen stock themselves, rather than paying knackermen to take the carcasses away.

"If farmers are allowed, or are forced by cost, to resort to the cheaper option of burying fallen stock then full cattle traceability will be lost," Mr Shields said. Although MAFF seemed to see on-farm burial as acceptable, it was ignoring the consequences of an indiscriminate way of disposing of pollution.

"By indiscriminate I mean mass graves….where thousands of carcases of all description are buried without any thought for effluent or water courses," the letter said.

He told FW that the knackering industry collected at least 350,000t of fallen stock from farms each year. The current collection cost of about £20 a head for cattle could rise to nearer £70 when rendering aid ceased.

Responding to Mr Shields points, MAFF said traceability would not be affected by on-farm burial because farmers with cattle registered on the proposed database would be legally required to tell MAFF if an animal had died, and how it was disposed of.

An official also pointed out that whole cattle carcases could only be buried on-farm following a post-mortem veterinary inspection. "Other bovine carcasses which still have SBMs attached must be rendered or incinerated," he added.

MAFF had no plans to make on-farm burial illegal, but ministers have asked the State Veterinary Service to watch out for any indications of illegal disposal. Laws were already in place to protect watercourses, and there was also a requirement for carcasses to be buried at a depth beyond the reach of dogs and other carnivores.

The official added that the decision to axe rendering subsidy was irreversible. The industry had benefited from support for a considerable time, giving it a prolonged period of adjustment to the new economic and regulatory environment. "In the circumstance the g

overnment sees no sustainable case for diverting resources from elsewhere to continue to shield the disposal chain from the additional costs which it faces." &#42

Shelley Wright