Announced by Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at the Conservative Party conference, the proposals included ending the live export of animals for slaughter and recommending that animals be sent to the closest available abattoir.
Responding to the proposals, the National Sheep Association (NSA) expressed astonishment at the proposals, saying they “expose a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of how the industry functions and an absence of awareness of transport related welfare research”.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Over a year ago we went through intense discussions on the subject of live exports and as a result the Secretary of State of the day appeared to accept that a ban on live exports was not necessary and a system that offered greater controls and assurances was preferable.
“Now we seem to back at square one again. With a new Secretary of State, with new ideas and the circus goes around again.”
The proposals also suggested animals should sent to the most local abattoir. To which Stocker said: “To suggest a requirement that farmers should have to sell to the closest abattoir defies belief. How on earth do Ministers think markets function? They claim to understand the need for options in order to be able to negotiate with the EU but then suggest we take market options away from livestock farmers.
“Imagine such a requirement in a livestock market when only one buyer, the local abattoir, can bid for your animals – it wouldn’t do much to improve the profitability or productivity of farms! If the Government is serious about such a radical idea then it would have to offer slaughtering as a public service with the market functioning after that point – and that would result in a restructuring of our industry in a way that would put all the other ideas that have been discussed into the shade.”
NSA expressed further concern about the effect this would have in Northern Ireland as under current law stock can pass freely over the border into the Republic of Ireland and on into abattoirs there. With the possible introduction of a hard border making this more difficult, the NSA warns that Northern Irish producers may struggle.
NSA Northern Ireland regional development officer Edward Adamson said: “With Brexit threatening to put a hard border across the island of Ireland, our abattoir capacity is already going to be seriously impacted. To add a further regulation meaning processors have the ability to create monopolies would just devastate our region. It would be the final straw for some producers and the industry would be in serious danger of losing a lot of farmers.”