NSA raises significant concern to Government abattoir proposal

1st October 2019

The National Sheep Association is astonished over the statement by Defra Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, once again proposing a ban on live exports of farm animals - and stating that animals should only be slaughtered at their most local abattoir.

The association says this exposes a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of how the industry functions – and an absence of awareness of transport related welfare research. It would create serious issues for many sheep farmers, and for the supply chain, including a loss of choice in business options.

 NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker explains: “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 proposal suggested animals should sent to the most local abattoir. Mr Stocker continues: “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 understands that the Government intends to publicly consult on these, and other related livestock management issues and will oppose proposals that risk damaging our industry but will support initiatives that genuinely improve the health and welfare of sheep.  

NSA is further concerned this effect this would have in Northern Ireland. Currently, 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, Northern Irish producers may already going to be struggling. 

NSA Northern Ireland Regional Development Officer Edward Adamson comments: "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." 

NSA Cymru/Wales Regional Development Officer Helen Roberts comments: "The sheep industry is already fragile at the moment and needs support rather than more obstacles. I t is ludicrous to expect us just to sell to our most local outlet, which can still be miles away, and does away with competition."