2 March 2000
Save small abattoirs, Brown urged

By Isabel Davies and Robert Davies

OVER 130 organisations have joined forces to call on farm minister Nick Brown to act now to help save small and medium-sized abattoirs threatened by meat inspection charges.

The group is concerned by the lack of help for low-volume plants. A task force to investigate inspection charges has been proposed, but is not expected to report back for some months.

An open letter urges the minister to take action in four urgent areas:

    It asks for
  • A temporary freeze on charges;
  • A change to a headage system of charging;
  • A derogation to allow smaller plants to have lower veterinary attendance;
  • A government assurance to plant owners that planned increases in veterinary cover will not result in increased charges to them.
The letter is the second – the first was sent last October.

More than 60 organisations signed the first letter, which pointed out the consequences to the rural economy of the closure of small- and medium-sized plants.

This time, the 130 signatories include the Country Landowners Association, The Soil Association, the Church of England, the Tenant Farmers Association and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

  • A Cardiganshire abattoir operator has told an NFU Wales Cymru fact-finding group that most of the 13 small slaughterhouses in Wales could close.

    Huw Evans told the group at his tiny plant at Tregaron this week that it had a 20 livestock units/week throughput limit to qualify for a rebate of 50% of Meat Hygiene Service charges, and only part-time veterinary presence.

    Sticking to the limit currently costs 673.89 to kill 20 units, including 131.59 for inspections.

    If a veterinary surgeon had to be present for 50% of the 10 hours it took to slaughter, and the 50% MHS subsidy disappeared, inspection charges would rise by 300 and the plant would close.

    To be viable the abattoir needed to kill around 30 units/week, the limit in Germany.

    During the visit, NFU Cymru Wales presdient Hugh Richards said losing small abattoirs would hit the developing organic sector, reduce consumer choice, limit tourism operators opportunities to promote local produce, and had possible animal welfare implications.