The Sustainable Food Trust has warned the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that the UK is in serious danger of losing local and traceable meat supplies if the situation continues.
The Trust has urged the government to recognise the importance of smaller abattoirs and to establish an in-depth inquiry to understand the multiple problems facing the sector.
They suggested that DEFRA should make a cash injection to smaller abattoirs in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which would match what the Welsh Government has proposed.
In March, Lesley Griffiths, cabinet secretary for energy, planning and rural affairs for the Welsh Government, announced a £1.1 million Food Business Investment scheme package of grant aid for small and medium-sized slaughterhouses in Wales, enabling businesses to continue slaughtering in remote areas.
The call comes as the Sustainable Food Trust questioned DEFRA’s secretary of state Michael Gove on the issue of small abattoirs at the ‘Future of UK Farming’ conference at the beginning of the month, with Gove making no commitment to resolving the issue.
The charity said that over a third of small UK abattoirs had closed in the past decade, and a further 10% had already closed this year, or were about to close.
“As more and more small abattoirs close, the distances to the nearest suitable slaughterhouse increase, until it is no longer financially viable for farmers – and the farm shops, farmers’ markets, local butchers and mail order meat businesses they supply are also forced to close,” said Sustainable Food Trust policy director Bob Kennard.
“We have now reached a critical level, with several blackspots around the country where smaller abattoirs simply do not exist.”
To publicly address the issue, The Sustainable Food Trust has created the ‘Campaign for Local Abattoirs’ and has produced a report explaining a variety of benefits in keeping smaller abattoirs open.