Described as a ‘huge national asset’ to the agricultural industry, the letter calls on DEFRA’s secretary of state Michael Gove to recognise the “existence” of a smaller abattoir network.
The organisations pointed out that smaller abattoirs enable thousands of family farmers to supply meat and other livestock products to retailers and catering outlets.
The move was pioneered by the Sustainable Food Trust who outlined in its latest report, ‘A Good Life and Good Death’ that a third of small abattoirs have closed in the past ten years and closures are continuing.
Other statistics from the report showed that six small abattoirs have closed in the last twelve months, with the latest, Bakers of Nailsea, which has been serving farmers and butchers in Somerset for 120 years, closing its door for the final time during the last month.
“The sale of locally-produced meat helps to keep many family farmers in business and has huge benefits for consumers and the environment,” said Sustainable Food Trust’s chief executive Patrick Holden.
“For the first time in my farming lifetime, Defra is genuinely striving to develop a more sustainable food system with additional focus on animal welfare. But that could come unstuck if we lose more local abattoirs. Without local slaughtering there will be no traceable local meat, it’s as simple as that.”
Gove has recognised the importance of local abattoirs and said there had been discussions about how animals could be killed closer to where they were raised. However, he gave no commitments.
Without support from Defra, the Sustainable Food Trust said the smaller abattoir sector is in danger of contracting further.