Eustice refuses to offer support for local abattoir network
Defra Secretary George Eustice has been accused of ‘missing the point’ on slaughterhouse investment, after he suggested no local abattoir network policy was needed to accommodate Government plans for shorter livestock journeys.
Last week, the Government launched an eight-week consultation on improving animal welfare in transport, which included proposals to cut maximum journey times and ban live exports.
But on Tuesday (November 8), Mr Eustice refused to offer much-needed support for smaller abattoirs in order to meet these aims.
Speaking to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, he suggested supermarkets which stipulate animals must be sent to a particular slaughterhouse would need to change their supply chain policies in order to ‘accommodate the law’, but added: “We have looked at where all the slaughterhouses are, species by species, and then considered hypothetically how quickly farms in many different parts of the country could get animals to the slaughterhouse.
“We have looked at a map and planned the range for different transports from different farms to different slaughterhouses, and we think the proposals we are consulting on sit fine within the existing network of abattoirs we have.”
But Chris Price, chief executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, warned Government needed to consider the capacity of existing abattoirs, not just their locations.
“We require a network of local abattoirs that can cater for small numbers of non-standard animals and return the fifth quarter and other by-products,” he said.
“The Government claims it wants a more prosperous farming sector, but the key to that is short-term investment to ensure the infrastructure on which it depends is fit for purpose.”
National Sheep Association chief executive Phil Stocker echoed these comments, pointing out Ministers were pushing for change in the livestock industry, but failing to adequately support the sector during the transition.
He said: “The Defra consultation suggests a fairly clear direction as to where Government want our industry to go, and part of that is shortening supply chains.
“That cannot be done without real strategic thinking and related investment.”
A Sustainable Food Trust spokesperson added: “If Government truly wants to improve animal welfare and meaningfully reduce journey times, it must commit to supporting this vital sector, investing in existing abattoirs so they can modernise and thrive, and enabling new abattoirs to be established.”
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