New Clause 23 - Local abattoir networks

Part of Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 18 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:15, 18 Tachwedd 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We have touched on this issue already. Many are concerned about it, with the notable exception of the Secretary of State, who sparked incredulity across the sector earlier this year with comments suggesting that all is fine in the world of abattoirs. Opposition Members do not think that the lack of local abattoirs is fine, and we want to find ways to address the problem, which is what new clause 23 is about. I will focus specifically on the animal welfare benefits that building up such a network would achieve.

Through the Bill, the Government are rightly trying to end the export of certain livestock for slaughter. This practice can have seriously negative impacts on livestock as a result of extensive journey times, as we have discussed. However, we do not think that the problem will be resolved simply by banning overseas exports. In the UK, there has been a rapid decline in the number of local abattoirs. A report by National Craft Butchers stated that there are only 62 local slaughterhouses left, and prospects for the future are fairly bleak. Seven in 10 abattoir owners were aged over 51, with 11% still working beyond the normal retirement age. More than half had no plan for someone younger to take over. That decline is down to a host of reasons, including staff shortages, vet shortages, centralisation of supply chains and, inevitably, regulatory changes and bureaucracy.

However, the consequence of the lack of a local network of abattoirs is that animals are often transported over long distances for slaughter, which poses much the same welfare concerns as shipping animals overseas, as animals still spend long periods being transported. I appreciate that the Government are consulting on these issues, but I think I am correct in saying that that is largely about improving transport. That is fine, but it does not alter the fact that long distances remain long distances. As I said, some of this is inevitably linked to significant changes in the way supply chains operate and to consolidation within sectors; the old days of local markets have largely gone, and while vertical integration may have benefits, there are, as ever, wider consequences that are less beneficial.

In September, the EFRA Committee published a report on moving animals across borders, saying:

“The consolidation of abattoir services means that the spread of services is not uniform across the UK, so many animals have to travel long journeys prior to slaughter. This undermines the ambition of the Government’s consultation on ‘Improvements to animal welfare in transport’ to reduce unnecessarily long journey times”.

I have spoken about this before. It is quite clear that the lack of local slaughterhouses also means that smaller farmers are unable to keep certain types of animals, due to the welfare concerns associated with transporting them over long distances for slaughter, which in turn reduces the likelihood of the return to mixed farming, which many would like.

Put simply, the market may be delivering what works for some retailers, but it is not delivering the wider public goods that we were discussing in this very Committee room almost two years ago in the Agriculture Bill Committee. We warned about these problems then, and today we give the Government the opportunity to do something about them.