The Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) and Abattoir Sector Group have welcomed Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) Committee for its new report Moving Animals Across Borders for detailing the issues facing smaller abattoirs and why it is important to develop and support a thriving UK network.
The organisations have particularly lauded paragraph 108 of the report which stated:
“Supporting and bolstering the UK abattoir network will benefit our food security and protect animal welfare. There is a direct link between the Government’s current policy of limiting journey times between the farm and abattoirs, and the need for a network of small and medium abattoirs spread geographically around the UK. Equally, small abattoirs must be commercially viable businesses, capable of supporting themselves.
“Defra should take action to protect small and medium abattoirs as a national strategic asset. These businesses should be supported and bolstered through the Future Farming Resilience Fund. Defra should set out and enact its approach to funding the UK abattoirs network as a strategic national asset within six months.”
Began Perry, head of policy and campaigns at the SFT and steering group member of the Abattoir Sector Group, said they were delighted to see the EFRA Committee raising this issue, in particular Defra Minister Lord Benyon’s comments that small abattoirs are “strategic assets”.
“We cannot have local meat without local abattoirs,” said Mr Perry. “Our small, local abattoirs are the lynchpins of higher welfare, sustainable and traceable farming systems, providing the vital infrastructure that enables these systems to be viable. They improve our nation’s food security and resilience to supply chain shocks, such as Covid-19 and, more recently, the C02 shortage. We therefore urge the EFRA Committee’s recommendation to support and bolster the small abattoir network through government funding be enacted as quickly as possible before even more abattoirs close.”
John Mettrick, abattoir owner and chair of the Abattoir Sector Group said it was heartening that the EFRACom report has recognised the importance of small abattoirs i the local food supply chain: “I look forward to government implementing the recommendations made in the report in a timely fashion so that the sector can plan a future. Small abattoirs can then support farmers that diversify and supply the public who are increasingly demanding local meat from short resilient supply chains.”
And Professor Tim Morris from the Abattoir Sector Group and Animal Health and Welfare Board for England said they also welcomed the report for endorsing that a network of small and medium abattoirs spread geographically around the UK benefits food security and protects animal welfare, noting a direct link between shorter journey times between farms and abattoirs.
“Government must address the heavy handed regulations overburdening these smaller abattoirs, preventing them from being successful commercial enterprises,” Professor Morris added. “The ASG also recognises smaller abattoirs must be commercially viable businesses, capable of supporting themselves; these businesses should therefore be supported toward greater commercial viability through the Future Farming Resilience Fund.”
This report follows a Prince’s Countryside Fund report which drew similar conclusions regarding the importance of the UK’s small abattoir sector.