MLCputs up plan for hill
ewe humane slaughtering
By Allan Wright
A £6m plan for the humane slaughter and disposal of 400,000 hill ewes which have no market value was presented to farm minister Nick Brown late on Wednesday.
Scottish and Welsh ministers were standing by to see if an all-Britain scheme was accepted or if devolution was to be tested, both having said they would take unilateral action.
The scheme before Mr Brown was devised by the Meat and Livestock Commissions head of sheep strategy, David Croston. He said there would be no compensation to farmers, the money going to fund haulage from collection points, slaughter at abattoirs, and disposal at rendering plants.
A small element in the budget was earmarked to help cover haulage costs from farm to collection points, most likely auction marts. The scheme was envisaged to run for three months.
Mr Croston said the MLC plan was put forward as a British solution to the cull ewe problem. "We have not looked in detail at the possibility of individual schemes for Scotland and Wales," he said.
But he did estimate that 35% of the British sheep population were hill ewes, with 45% of them in Scotland and 25% in Wales.
It was reasonable to conclude that the same percentages would apply to ewes with no market value, which would mean about 180,000 in Scotland, 120,000 in England, and 100,000 in Wales earmarked for a disposal scheme.
Mr Croston said funding a disposal scheme was a delicate matter and, to win EU approval, could not contain any element of compensation for farmers. "It has to be seen as something based on welfare and environmental grounds," he said.
"We are well aware that the EU Commission is challenging the Irish cull ewe scheme of last year which included paying farmers about £1m compensation. We feel that basing our scheme on humane slaughter and disposal is the safest way to approach Brussels," he added.
If approved, the scheme would be put out to tender among abattoirs and renderers.
But Scotlands MLC manager, Alistair Donaldson, warned that it might prove difficult to find participating abattoirs. "This cull would coincide with the peak period for slaughtering lambs and some abattoirs may not be prepared to set aside days or facilities for cull ewes," he said.
The scheme has the backing of all the farming unions.