Let us slaughter and sell pigs to solve meat crisis, urge farmers

·3 min read
A pig in a barn at Belle Vue Farm in Preston - Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
A pig in a barn at Belle Vue Farm in Preston - Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Farmers have urged the Government to let them slaughter and sell their pigs to solve the meat crisis.

They said regulations needed to be loosened and Britain’s industrial, centralised abattoir system needed to be rethought to help tackle the problems with pig slaughter that had left them facing the prospect of culling their animals.

Current rules mean animals killed on farms by their owners can be eaten by farmers and their families but not sold commercially for consumption due to food safety and welfare laws.

This week, the Government announced plans to offer emergency six-month visas to 800 foreign butchers in an effort to avoid a mass pig cull that could affect tens of thousands of animals.

Crisis ‘is a wake-up call’

Patrick Holden, the chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust and a dairy farmer in west Wales, said the pig crisis was a “wake-up call”.

“We’ve come to rely on an economic underclass of migrant workers who are populating the abattoirs and the meat cutting plants, doing jobs that we’ve decided we don't want to do,” he said.

“If you have a meat packing plant where something goes wrong, thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people are affected, so we have a draconian regulatory system which is protecting us against that risk.

“If I decided to process my veal cows on the farm, I’ve still got to satisfy the stringent demands of the environmental health people, which apply to large-scale meat packing operation. That’s ridiculous. In my view, the best way an animal should meet its death is on the farm where it lived. But of course the regulatory system makes that completely impossible.

“In trying to protect ourselves from harm from the food we eat, we've made it impossible for the healthiest and most welfare-friendly food to be available,” he said.

EU laws brought in in 2009 placed licensing restrictions on all abattoirs, which made it more difficult for small companies to comply, but some countries such as Germany have experimented with on-farm slaughter of animals.

Lady Jane Parker, who owns a sustainable farm in the Cotswolds, said: “In general, there is too much red tape which inhibits small, micro and moveable abattoirs developing around slaughtering, processing, animal by products and additional issues relating to planning.

“Both practically and culturally, small abattoir owners are conditioned not to innovate or develop their businesses except within a highly restrictive and supervised regime. Responsiveness and flexibility are not acceptable in those environments.”

Ckarkson condemns ‘mad’ rules

The mobile abattoir plan is in the final stages of development and regulator the Food Standards Agency is also working on plans to regulate small and large abattoirs differently, but farmers said this change was happening too slowly.

Last week, television presenter and newly-established Cotswolds farmer Jeremy Clarkson argued that the rules were “mad”.

“We are not killing animals so that we can eat them, which is sensible and proper. We are killing them and then ­basically throwing them away. Which is utterly idiotic,” he wrote in a newspaper column.

Zoe Davies, the chief executive of the National Pig Association, said that the farmers hardest hit by the crisis had larger farms, making local slaughter impractical.

“We have to find a solution within the industry to ensure that these pigs go in the food chain, which is what they’re intended to do,” she said.

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