The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) welcomes the recent government announcement that funding will be made available to the small abattoir sector.

The funding will be used for improved infrastructure to promote animal health and welfare, productivity, sustainability and food provenance. The HSA looks forward to seeing further details of the funding when they are available.

Over the past twenty years, there has been a decline in the number of small and medium sized abattoirs in the UK, and this trend continues. The closures have not been geographically uniform, leaving large areas of upland livestock-rearing regions without such facilities.

Consequently, a significant number of animals now have to travel longer distances and for longer durations. For longer journeys, animals are often transported by professional livestock hauliers and may spend time at collection centres. This may result in handling by unfamiliar people, potential mixing of farm animals from different social groups and extended time in lairage, all of which can negatively impact animal welfare.

There are other considerations such as meat quality and provenance of the end product that are also impacted by the transport, handling and slaughter of livestock. However, the HSA’s concern is exclusively with animal welfare.

There are clear advantages to shorter journey times for animals, but there are other welfare advantages associated with smaller abattoirs, including less time pressure due to lower throughputs. This enables lairage and slaughter staff to dedicate more time to individual animals, allowing them the time needed to move animals through the lairage calmly.

With the number of small and medium-sized abattoirs falling, there is a need to find an alternative to protect the welfare of animals beyond the farm gate. In 2021, the HSA provided advice on potential handling and lairage systems to be used in conjunction with a mobile, or pop-up, abattoir based in the Cotswolds. The organisation also wrote a letter of support highlighting the benefits of shorter journey times and smaller throughputs for animal welfare. The HSA says it is delighted, therefore, that the mobile abattoir, operated by Fir Farm Ltd, is now licensed for use at sites in Gloucestershire and Devon.

For more information on this, check out the April issue of The Country Smallholder.

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