1 December 2000
Pithing ban to be put on hold?

By Alistair Driver

A NEW anti-BSE measure which small abattoirs claim will drive them out of business could be delayed by the Food Standards Agency.

A ban on pithing – the practice of inserting a metal wire into cattle brains to prevent the animals kicking out after stunning – comes into force on 1 January.

Small abattoirs claim that the ban, agreed by European ministers in June, could drive them out of business because upgrading facilities is too expensive.

But the new rule could be delayed by the Food Standards Agency, which started consulting the industry in November on how it can be implemented.

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said: “If we do not implement the ban on 1 January, we would seen to be in default.”

But he added: “After the consultation, it is possible we will say to the EU that we need to think a little harder before introducing it.”

Soil Association director Patrick Holden wants the Ministry of Agriculture to ask Brussels for a six-month delay before implementing the ban.

This would allow time to negotiate an exemption for cattle under 30 months old and to discuss compensation for abattoirs, he said.

Health and Safety Executive food sector adviser Fiona Macneill said there is anecdotal evidence of injuries in abattoirs that have stopped pithing.

The HSE is putting together guidance notes for abattoirs on how to slaughter safely once pithing is outlawed, she said.