Rare breeds join abattoir charge campaign


By James Garner


RARE breeds are the latest group to join the campaign to cut Meat Hygiene Service charges that are crippling small and medium sized abattoirs, with the threat of even higher costs looming.


Despite the charges being reviewed by MAFF, its proposed enforcement of an EU directive which imposes hourly rates will mean smaller abattoirs will go out of business, says a report for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.


Some small- and medium-sized abattoirs are already going bust – 40 have been lost since last Christmas, says editor of the RBSTs Ark magazine, Richard Lutwyche.



EFFECTS OF CLOSURES

  • No more farmers markets
  • End of locally produced meats
  • Stop rare breeds revival



  • “It now costs £11 a head in MHS charges to slaughter an animal in this country, compared with only £3 in France.”


    Both countries are working to the same system, but interpretations of the EU directive on meat hygiene are different, he says.


    “If this policy continues there will only be big industrial abattoirs left in the UK and they will not be able to cope with small batches of animals sent by producers who keep rare breeds.”


    According to Mr Lutwyche, the RBST fears many keepers of rare breeds will simply give them up if they cannot have them slaughtered anywhere.


    “Some are hobby farms but others have 30 or 40 animals.”


    Despite the government giving low throughput slaughterhouses – processing fewer than 20 units a week – a reprieve by applying an EU derogation which means they do not need 100% veterinary supervision, concerns still exist about how much supervision will be required and how this level will be determined.


    For slightly larger abattoirs, proposed changes to the MHS are likely to increase the amount of time vets spend inspecting meat plants.


    The Soil Association predicts costs could rise by between 200-6000%, forcing many smaller plants to close and leaving only 75 abattoirs throughout the country.


    Soil Association policy adviser, Richard Young, says an abattoir slaughtering 50-60 units a week will be faced with the same hourly rates as an industrial plant that can kill a bullock every 10 seconds.


    “It stands to reason that the inspection costs for each animal in a small slaughterhouse will be much higher because they do not have the level of throughput of a bigger industrial unit.”


    The implications of small abattoir closures are massive, says independent food safety adviser Richard North. “In terms of human health and animal welfare it is disastrous.


    “Assembling animals in large slaughterhouses concentrates infection. If one herd is suffering from infection then this will contaminate others.”


    Further closures threaten a range of expanding markets, says Mr Young. These include organic meat, rare breeds, deer and even private kills.


    “Another example is farmers markets, which rely on locally produced and processed meats. These will be endangered and this is currently a growth area.


    “The key thing is that these closures affect one area where there is optimism and enthusiasm in farming, and that is regional and local marketing initiatives, which are being successful.”


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