Provision of Abattoirs



3rd July 2018  

Political Members: Ruth George MP, Andrea Jenkyns MP, Theresa Villiers MP, Giles Watling MP, Lord Hodgson, Angela Smith MP, Baroness Mallaleui, Sheryl Murray MP, Baroness Masham, Henry Smith MP, Lord Trees


NFU, Sustainable Food Trust, Perdix Partnership, Mobile Abattoir Project, National Sheep Association, National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, Food Standards Agency, British Meat Processors Association, Rare Breeds Survival Trust, CIWF, BVA, RSPCA, VPHA, AHWBE, University of Bristol, Agricultural & Horticultural Board, RCVS, Association of Independent Meat Supplies, World Animal Protection, CLA, Countryside Alliance, Prince’s Countryside Fund.


Two areas to focus on:


Current regulations – where are the difficult points, where are the costs, where is their room for manoeuvrability?


Where is there scope for integration and innovation with farmers, processors and customers/wholesalers all investing in local abattoirs for long term sustainability.


Additional: Need to map abattoir provision across UK and link to journey times for live transport.


AGM: Chaired by Lord Trees


Election of Group Officers:

  • Election of Chairs: Angela Smith MP (Lab), Henry Smith MP (Con), Lord Trees (Cross Bench)
  • Vice- chairs: Baroness Mallaleui (Lab), Rebecca Pow MP (Con), Giles Watling MP (Con)
  • Treasurer: Theresa Villiers (Con)
  • Secretary: Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab)


  • Advisory Board: BVA, RSPCA. PfMA, NFU, PIF, Professor Tim Morris and Claire Horton from the Animal Health & Welfare Board England, Chris Laurence from AWF & CFSG


Financial Update:


  • A financial report has been sent to political members and filed with the Parliamentary Standards. Income was £16,845 and expenditure was £12,594


  1. Provision of Abattoirs in the UK


The numbers of abattoirs, and their local availability continues to decline. More than a third of small abattoirs have closed in the past decade, leaving around 60 in England, down from 96 in 2007. Abattoir numbers in total (all size) were 30,000 abattoirs in the UK in 1930 and 249 in July 2017. 32 abattoirs in England slaughter 88% of all sheep. 19 abattoirs slaughter 73% of cattle. The National Farmers’ Union has acknowledged that large parts of south-east England are now devoid of abattoirs. Hampshire and Surrey have just one abattoir each, and there are none on the Isle of Wight, although about 3,500 beef cattle, 20,000 lambs and 4,500 pigs are reared there.


What are the implications of less small abattoirs for animal welfare and farmers? Do we need to find solutions to reverse this trend and what short and longer term policy could help with that?



  1. Is the decline of abattoirs detrimental to animal welfare and an issue of concern for farmers?


Dr Claire White MRCVS, School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol


  • 50 plants cover most slaughter. Research shows increased duration in transport increases welfare risk but good environment and loading, health of animal on loading, driving quality etc all play important role.
  • Ample legislation exists to protect animal welfare in transport (perhaps a little less on farm). Enforcement has been fair. If all players conform to existing legislation then there is adequate cover to protect welfare.
  • Direct observation by a vet is important on any size abattoir
  • OV trained Bristol or Glasgow and are trained to a high standard.
  • Small abattoirs encouraged to work with their OVs and not have an adversarial relationship.
  • Small abattoirs must be support on a sound commercial basis only. Grants/funding are welcome but not essential


  1. How can local abattoirs sustain and support the wider local farming economy?


Richard Young, Policy Director, Sustainable Food Trust.


  • Partner in organic farming business
  • Author of A good life, and a good death report
  • 2/3 UK grazing only good for livestock systems, encouraging extensive farming and matching breeds to areas important.
  • 245 red meat abattoirs left in the UK with under 60 of them being small abattoirs.
  • 1 in 5 young people claim to eat no meat and consumption is dropping which could lead to a food security issue in regards to procurement.
  • Small abattoirs able to offer more ‘private killing’ and organic status and allow farms to supply a ‘local’ product and stock their local farm shop. Also allows smaller farmers to access abattoirs locally where transport of a few animals not economical. Small abattoirs also allow return of higher quality offal from extensive organic livestock for example.
  • £1 spent locally is worth 4x as much as a £1 spent elsewhere and reduces environmental impact
  • Whilst meat consumption is dropping there has been a rise in growth of local meat with high welfare standards.
  • Business models for small farmers depend on being part of an environmental scheme and it needs to market the meat from a high welfare system which means the slaughter process must meet standards.


  1. What can make local abattoirs sustainable businesses?


David Steward, Sustaining Island Abattoirs in Scotland Project


  • Abattoirs in the Islands came together to form an association as recognised they all faced similar problems.
  • <20,000 slaughtered per annum. Numbers can be very low for some small abattoirs who may only kill once a week.
  • Small scale causes problems mainly in i) regulation takes time Vs the few slaughtering days, ii) OV costs iii) part time staff and difficult to recruit slows down skilled tasks iii) local meat struggles to compete with supermarket prices.
  • Employment is very difficult with small abattoirs as often they only need part-time workers, training is hard and slow.
  • Local procurement processes to prioritise local produce would be a great boost.
  • Produced a quality guide for small abattoirs to support bureaucratic elements of job – complimented by Scottish FSA


  1. Can we evolve regulation to both support local abattoirs and animal welfare?


Natasha Jenkins, Environmental Health Officer and Meat Inspector 


  • Here in personal capacity but with a professional aim to protect food standards
  • Regulatory reform needed to be proportionate to small business proposals- it is not about dilution but proportion. Regulatory standards were designed for large complex supply chains.
  • Short supply chain needs special compensation
  • Local USP adds value to product and they are excluded from this by the current regulation.
  • The reputation of a small business essential so quality and safety needs to be assured to retain their small customer base, would not weather a horsemeat scandal etc
  • Scheme that meets EU standards but proportionate to the producer. The spirit of the legislation has been wrongly interpreted.
  • FSA and Local authorities can both be regulating the same plants – this should not be required to protect food safety. There is variation consistency between FSA and LA, mostly a standard that has been set has not guidance on how to achieve it.
  • Proposes to lift unnecessary regulation from small businesses, the working of the legislation is loose and can be interpreted differently. We can look at legislative reform now as an EC regulation, this does not need to wait until Brexit – and will not compromise food safety.
  • National Vs regional restrictions due to LA vs FSA regulation. Example given of Cornwall unable to get products out of Cornwall based on geography only.


John Mettrick, The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT) President & Small Abattoir Owner


  • Butcher and family running abattoir 100yrs. Best butcher UK and BBC Food and Farming Award winner and abattoir featured in Kill it, Cook it, Eat it
  • Small plants have limited resources to deal with the increasing paperwork. Information needs to be exchanged between regulatory bodies to avoid duplication for the plant owner.
  • Meat inspection regime needs to be risk based.
  • Coud be better use of veterinary resources, do we need them to carry out the ante-mortem. Cold inspection would reduce costs CCTV could allow a more supervisory role.
  • Cost of by-product removal – lamb skin in remote area cost 80p.
  • Could there be an post Brexit Artisan stamp on meat allowing certain variations in trhe processes?


Simon Docherty, Junior Vice President British Veterinary Association


  • Recognise value of both large and small abattoirs and support the reduction in transport of animals – transport on the hook not the hoof
  • OV required by EU law, ante and post-mortem inspection
  • Ensuring animals are slaughtered humanely whilst there is good hygiene practice
  • Key role in protecting from spread of disease by monitoring animals in abattoirs. Foot and Mouth was first identified by the OV. Support the need for OV in the abattoir.
  • Technology has a role to play but it cannot replace the expertise of vets inspecting animals and looking for signs of bad practice or disease
  • BVA to launch infographic on farm assurance schemes to help consumers understand what they mean.



  • Colin Wilson (VPHA) – Veterinary inspection forms essential part of the disease monitoring capacity in the UK, delayed inspection is available to small abattoirs.
  • Martin Liggins (Head of food operations for FSA) – no difference in the end product from the large or small abattoirs. There are no identifying features that help the consumer know that a product came from a small abattoir. Why not use an assurance scheme to boost the profile?
  • Angela Smith MP: During lords debate on secondary legislation there were concerns raised about CCTV impact on small abattoirs. Avoid APGAW taking a position too early on before doing some work on whether the legislation is overbearing etc but we can establish principles. Balance on animal welfare impacts of transport time Vs the welfare at the abattoir – should consider both when considering the end product.
  • Sheryl Murray MP –There has been welsh funding and training provided by Government there to support abattoirs. Apprenticeships were launched by the Institute of Meat, approved 3months ago and these should be looked at to develop skills in workers.
  • Dr Claire White –The cost of training and the diversity of training requirements mean the EU demand of finishing in 3months is difficult to achieve for small abattoirs. There should be no reduction in inspection. CCTV is not a substitute for seeing slaughter in person. Cold inspection of carcass not as good as at the time inspection.
  • Baroness Mallaleui: Farm inspection to certify that the animals are fit to travel and vets doing the ante-mortem is a good thing and feed back to the farmers would be appreciated. We should try to make recommendations to the Secretary of State about how to reform current regulations given his openness to this.
  • Prof Tim Morris: Integration and the viable business model needs to be consider. For example disposing of waste needs transforming into an asset and away from a cost. Are there novel combinations of using the waste products to generate power etc especially useful in remote areas. Integration from farmer to abattoir and to retailer/butcher.
  • David Stewart: There is much variation in LA interpretation of the regulation from experience. Three different local authorities interpreted them entirely differently with one stating a member had to dispose of waste by landfill and another stating the member needed to install an incinerator.
  • Baroness Masham – Once sheep sold no control for the farmer of what happens at the abattoir. CCTV due to start 5th November 2018. Animal welfare failures at the abattoir and at the market – there needs to be responsibility along the whole food chain not just with the farmer – there are already rigorous legislation to protect animals.
  • Dr Claire White – There is a lack of knowledge, skills and poor facilities that often contribute to poor welfare of animals along the food chain.
  • Colin Wilson: CCTV is Defra’s legislation (and therefore interpretation down to Defra) but will be delivered by the FSA. VPHA do provide flexibility for the 3month deadline for training. Welsh funding was to improve the abattoir not just CCTV but can be used for CCTV. There was support for financial and knowledge development for small abattoirs in Wales and this may have contributed to the success of small abattoirs in Wales compared to elsewhere.
  • John Mettrrick: Trailblazers apprenticeship scheme comes with funding for training so small abattoirs can take advantage of this.
  • Paddy Hoare – Been trying to set up a mobile abattoir but it has been stuck with Regulations. Understands biosecurity point but an OV does not treat an animal, a veterinary surgeon is called so does the OV need to be a vet?
  • Simon Docherty – Right to the point of slaughter the animal is still alive and so a vet is best placed to make any judgement call on its welfare. There needs to be sensible decisions around this that are sound.
  • Angela Smith MP: Why haven’t we got farming co-operatives to help run small abattoirs with Government funding? It seems evidential from the discussion that we need more small abattoirs but we also have to accept large abattoirs are part of the mix. The regulations need to be more nuanced to create a balance between the small scale and the large scale and it would be useful to understand this more.

Lord Trees:

  • Refining regulatory burden- identifying the real costs in that burden and where changes could be made
  • Enhanced training for paraprofessionals but would they have sufficient regulatory body to uphold their standards. Would a paraprofessional certificate meet other countries standards?
  • Disease surveillance in abattoirs important nationally and internationally but can we also make this feedback information available to farmers
  • Mobile abattoirs should be considered
  • Food safety concerns and disease prevention are just as important (and therefore regulated) regardless of abattoir size
  • Reduction of capital costs possible like the welsh Gov has. Grants?