EU rules `a threat to abattoirs'

Dec 10 2002

Sheila Coleman Farming Editor Sheila.Coleman@Wme.Co.Uk, The Western Mail


THE beleaguered rural economy could be dealt a further blow if controversial European Union legislation regarding abattoirs goes ahead, it has been claimed.

Proposals by Brussels to demand full recovery of meat hygiene inspection charges and to enforce new blood disposal measures would result in a "massive and unbearable" leap in costs for many slaughterhouses and cutting plants and would drive smaller abattoirs out of business, claims David Harden, chairman of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) in Wales.

Speaking in North Wales yesterday, Mr Harden said such a move would also seriously damage a popular campaign aimed at persuading people to "buy local" as a desperately-needed boost for rebuilding rural prosperity.

The landowners' leader fore-cast "a chain reaction which would destroy jobs and incomes across the meat and livestock industry as well as the wider rural economy and beyond."

The extinction of local abattoirs, he claims, would be a disastrous blow to the CLA's Think Local, Buy Local, Act Local campaign, which has attracted widespread support for its target of encouraging rural-dwellers to buy locally produced and processed foods as a method of breathing new commercial life into recession-hit local enterprises.

"These proposed EU regulations would have disastrous consequences if they are implemented and so must be stopped," he said.

"They aim to achieve the full recovery from the industry of all meat inspection costs and to introduce changes to the arrangements for disposal of blood by-products.

"Their impact would spell the end of the line for the UK's small and medium-sized abattoirs, while the large ones would become less competitive against foreign competitors."

The potential widespread effect on the rural economy and beyond, he said, is widely accepted by a cross section of organisations, 150 of which had united in opposition to the EU proposals and have signed a letter to Defra Secretary of State Margaret Beckett aimed at strengthening the UK Government's case in negotiations with Brussels.

Mr Harden said: "Farming and food organisations, environmental, animal welfare, business and tourism groups, academic institutions and church leaders have all come together to express their concern. The Government must stand firm in fighting for the survival of a diverse industry.

"We cannot afford to lose our smaller local abattoirs and cutting plants. They currently process 49% of UK livestock and are needed to deal with specialist and local meats, to provide jobs in rural communities and to minimise the distances travelled by animals."

He added that smaller abattoirs are central to the drive to get people to buy local produce.

Mr Harden went on, "Our call for rural-dwellers to buy locally-produced goods and services - including locally-reared and processed meat - has been endorsed and welcomed throughout Wales. It has won the approval of the Meat and Livestock Commission, the Welsh Development Agency, MPs and media commentators.

"But local farmers cannot add value to their livestock and local meat processors, butchers and farmers' markets cannot play their parts in the production chain which makes local meats available to local consumers if there are no local abattoirs."