A WELSH FARMER who recently advised DEFRA about the illegal trade in blowtorched unskinned mutton has been handed a six months suspended jail sentence.

Carmello Gale, who runs 1300 breeding ewes at Llandyssul in Dyfed, appeared before Swansea Crown Court for sentencing after pleading guilty on May 17 to operating an illegal slaughter house.

He was also ordered to pay £3000 prosecution costs.

He admitted killing old ewes in unlicensed premises at Penclawdd Uchaf Farm near his home, and scorching the skin and residual wool to produce golden coloured “smokies” for ethnic communities.

The court heard that West African and Muslim customers were prepared to pay ten times the price of ordinary mutton to get the traditional delicacy.

Sentencing, Judge Keith Thomas accused Mr Gale of cashing in on the potential market while other farmers obeyed the regulations.

In May, just a few days before appearing in court, Mr Gale explained the production of smokies at a meeting with DEFRA livestock strategy division civil servants, which was arranged by the National Sheep Association.

It was convened to discuss the possibility of legalising the production of smokies, and other currently banned skin-on ethnic meat products, which is being researched by the Food Standards Agency.

While the Farmers Union of Wales backs the idea, it criticised the use of Mr Gale, who already had a conviction for transporting 124 illegally processed sheep carcasses, as a consultant at the meeting.

Following the new conviction an FUW spokesman insisted that no farmer should get involved in the trade until hygienic production was legalised, which might be possible when a new EU regulation is enacted in 2006.

Outside the court Mr Gale described current regulations as “crazy”.

He claimed that searing the flesh reduced the bacterial contamination of smokies, and warned that demand driven high prices would encourage some people to go on breaking the law.

Legalisation would bring down end prices, but farming unions believe that the increase in value of cull ewes could put an extra £10m a year in UK farmers‘ pockets.