30 August 1996

UK abattoirs can keep £22m slaughter cash

ABATTOIRS in Britain will be able to keep the estimated £22m owed to government as part of the agreement reached with the Intervention Board over payment rates for slaughtering over 30-month cattle.

Government had initially warned slaughterhouses involved in the slaughter scheme that they would have to pay back part or all of the £87.50 fee paid to abattoirs after June 16.

But the IB has accepted that the fee paid for the 250,000 animals slaughtered under the scheme since June 16 does not have to be repaid. So far, a total of 400,000 animals have been culled under the scheme, though an additional 140,000 head still have to be slaughtered.

In return, slaughterhouses accepted a £47.50 cut in payments to £41 an animal plus the use of the hides, which came into effect on Monday. An Intervention Board spokeswoman argued the payment cut would save £40m in subsequent years of the scheme.

Ashley Bowes, president of the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers, said the agreement, which follows an investigation by accountants Coopers and Lybrand, would make sure the 30-month scheme continued to restore confidence at home and abroad.

"Our main priority is to ensure the high standards that our members have set in carrying out the cull programme are maintained. We have made sure the scheme has been handled efficiently and to the highest standards in both animal welfare and hygiene."

But the agreement was attacked by abattoirs not involved in the 30-month scheme and by politicians. Roger Smith, managing director of the Manchester abattoir, argued abattoirs were still being heavily subsidised by government and were in effect obtaining £60 an animal once the value of the hide was taken into account. &#42