Farmers are still none the wiser about what is to happen with providing an abattoir on Orkney after the islands one was closed earlier this year.
After making enquiries a spokesperson for Orkney Islands Council told The Orkney News:
“A meeting of Orkney Islands Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday September 11 considered a report on abattoir provision in Orkney.
“This was discussed in private as commercially sensitive information was included in the report.
“This item now goes before a meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday October 9, after which we plan to issue a further update.”
Local Farmer Jane Cooper said:
“While privacy issues may be valid, possibly even for the entirety of discussions, it is exceedingly unhelpful for all those who rely on the abattoir for no official comments to be made, no indication even of some idea of the ‘direction of travel’.
“What has this lack of official updates meant? Well when the abattoir closed with no notice there were folk with livestock already booked in for slaughter. Then there was a period where those of us totally reliant on a local abattoir service had to work to be recognised in some way as stakeholders with a legitimate interest in news about an abattoir service in Orkney.
“The last news that was widely available that I know about was on page 2 of The Orcadian on 5th April. Which was that the abattoir service would hopefully be resuming in a new small facility within a couple of years & paragraphs about inspections of the old abattoir to enable possible reuse of it in the interim.
“The worst was finding out the day before the Dounby Show that efforts to finance a new small abattoir next to the mart, of a size appropriate for Orkney & minimising or eliminating the need for ongoing support once built, had failed some weeks before. But no word of this was made public, losing precious months when other options could have been investigated.
“I have to ask, what privacy issues would have been involved in the Council making an announcement that plans for a new abattoir, with possible temporary limited re-opening of the old abattoir, had failed and there were no new plans?
“I know from the nearly 1000 people we spoke to at the shows that it was a universal belief that there would be a resumption of the abattoir service within a few months. So that’s what everyone was working on with their livestock plans. That was certainly the case for me with my rare breed sheep that we farm for premium mutton. My business has been at a standstill all year and I know of other small scale farmers who have had to absorb significant losses, even selling valuable breeding stock. All with huge stress and worry. I’m sure that it’s not the case that the Council don’t care, but I’m now finding it hard to avoid thinking that they care more about other things.”
Jane Cooper continued:
“But even more serious – that was vital time lost for North Ronaldsay to try and find a solution. Weeks or even months of planning time lost. Why did the Council do that? What privacy issues were there around a statement that plans for resuming an abattoir service hadn’t been able to proceed? One sentence would have done it. Why didn’t they issue that one vital sentence?
“What options for North Ronaldsay have the Council discussed for this coming winter when the islanders should be getting around 220 mutton sheep off the shore and slaughtered. This provides essential income for an island economy officially described as ‘fragile’, and for the welfare of the sheep so there aren’t more than the shores can sustain.”
The protected PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) for Orkney Beef and Orkney Lamb cannot be used when Orkney raised livestock is not also slaughtered in the islands. PDO is an EU approved sign and customers know when buying products marked with this label that they are buying quality. It is of huge advantage when marketing Orkney’s quality meat.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame