NSA raises concerns over availability and capacity of UK abattoirs

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is questioning the capability of meeting some of the wider implications of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, particularly concerning the suggested ban on live exports.

NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker said:

The bill’s aim of reducing travel time from the point of production to slaughter, needs to also address the availability, capacity and location of abattoirs and slaughter facilities, alongside a real shortage of staff and labour and how ministers will ensure future international trade deals also meet and uphold these standards.”

To be able to cater for a ban on live exports, the NSA believes there needs to be sufficient locally placed abattoirs in livestock rearing areas with attention given to their operation to ensure they can provide the appropriate service.

The NSA added that most farmers want to keep journeys to slaughter as short as possible, but there still needs to be choice and competition in order to maintain prices.

‘Over capacity’ in slaughtering

Stocker continued:

For years we have heard that the UK has ‘over capacity’ in slaughtering, and in theory, this might be correct – but with increased stock to be slaughtered, pressure on journey times, and a shortage of available labour there needs to be investment in options rather than just the application of restrictions.

“Government policy has led to a steady decline in the network of small- to medium-sized, multi-species abattoirs in the UK.”

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) on small abattoirs highlighted the decline of licensed abattoirs in the UK since the 1930s with the number of licensed abattoirs in the UK decreasing over the years from 30,000 registered in the 1930s to around 250 today.

The loss of smaller, local abattoirs has meant that livestock has had to travel longer distances within the UK and it has led to an obstacle for those trying to establish local and direct supply chains at a time when there is clear consumer interest.

For some farmers in the southeast of England, the closest facility has been just across the channel in France.

Stocker concluded:

The UK government has set its stall out clearly regarding ambitions for animal welfare with the launch of this bill.

“This, therefore, adds to the frustration and disappointment that trade deals are now being explored and agreed that threaten our standards and values, simply offshoring practices not allowed here and pushing things conveniently out of sight.”