Should Farming in Scotland be Developing a System of Mobile Abattoirs?

Protected Designation of OriginThe Orkney News has highlighted the issues surrounding the loss of the abattoir in Orkney. Not only does it mean animals now have to travel the considerable distance to Dingwall but it also means Orkney’s coveted protected designation of origin status cannot be used to market Orkney’s beef and lamb. Orkney the Brand Under Threat

The PDO status will also be lost when the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019 and as yet there is no replacement for it.

It is not an issue confined to Orkney. Across the UK small abattoirs have been closing down meaning animals are travelling longer distances over land and sea to be slaughtered causing them considerable distress. A report produced by the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) – A Good Life and a Good Death – looks at the issue including the use of mobile abattoirs.

A mobile abattoir comes to a farm or another suitable location. It is a complete system for the slaughter of livestock. The EU has regulations on the killing of livestock and these allow for the different needs of mobile abattoirs.

“Mobile slaughterhouses reduce the need for animals to be transported over long distances and therefore may contribute to safeguarding animal welfare. However, technical constraints for mobile slaughterhouses differ from fixed slaughterhouses and technical rules may need to be consequently adapted. Therefore, this Regulation should provide for the possibility to establish derogations exempting mobile slaughterhouses from the requirements on layout, construction and equipment of slaughterhouses. Pending the adoption of such derogations, it is appropriate to allow Member States to establish or maintain national rules regarding mobile slaughterhouses.”

As well as practical difficulties in setting up an area suitable for a mobile abattoir there are cost implications. The SFT report looks at these in some detail.

“The financial challenge for mobile abattoirs is to enable sufficient throughput to allow the recovery of both capital and operating costs. Transport between farms, setting up and cleaning of the vehicles and equipment are effectively non-productive down-time. Another financial issue has been that ante-mortem and carcase inspections have been mandatory, often for just a handful of animals at each location, making the costs per animal very high.”

In its conclusions the SFT calls on the UK Government to develop regulations which would allow  mobile abattoirs and on farm slaughtering to be economically viable.

Mobile abattoirs are in  use in some countries including EU member Sweden. It may be a way forward for the farming industry in both Orkney and Scotland to lobby  the Scottish and UK Governments about establishing mobile abattoirs in places which  are a considerable distance from large abattoirs. It would require a considerable financial investment and a new way of looking at how we slaughter livestock.


Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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