Adventures in Ethical Consumerism

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Local abattoirs

Today Eleanor Scott (of the Scottish Green Party) introduced a debate on the subject of rural abattoirs to the Scottish Parliament.

The number of small, rural abattoirs in Scotland is falling rapidly. This is mostly due to the costs of keeping up with health regulations and inspections, especially since the outbreak of foot & mouth disease in 2000. Now, many farmers are having to transport their animals for slaughter, a practice which brings with it a number of disadvantages.

One concern is the spread of disease, which occurs much more quickly and easily when animals are moved around. Another, perhaps more obvious, reason is animal welfare. While there are still some who deny that transporting animals for long distances before slaughtering them is detrimental to their welfare, I don’t think there can be much doubt that such things are stressful for animals, as they are for humans.

Other good reasons for encouraging more rural abattoirs rest on the philosophy that keeping food local is the best thing for ordinary people. Consumers benefit from fresher food, and the money they spend on it is retained within the community. There is also less money and resources wasted on transporting the food, and less pollution as a result. Food tourism is an expanding movement; people like to experience local food in the places they visit. And it was pointed out by Rob Gibson (of the Scottish National Party) today that “more tender meat [is obtained] from local animals killed locally”.

Lewis McDonald, Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development, said the Scottish Executive recognizes the need to support small abattoirs, and went on to list a number of relevant complications. These included the investment required to meet stringent hygiene standards, the fact that all abattoirs need to be commercially viable, the fact that consumers want and expect safe food, and that staff working conditions need always to be taken into account.

It was great to see this topic being given an airing in the Parliament today. Many MSPs spoke in favour of having more rural abattoirs in Scotland, though I think it will fall to the individual farmers and butchers to make things happen in their own areas. This has already been happening in Scotland, and it would be great for everyone if we could develop more of the same.


  • Hi, Thanks for writing your concerns. Being in America and not a sheep raiser, my comments are not as relevant as would be someone nearer to your home. It was interesting to read about your concerns. We used to raise dairy cattle, replacement hefers, some pigs and lots of chickens. We are vegetarians now. Enlightened consumers are making a difference in the commercial market place. Our name Brand grocery stores are offering more and more specialty products that appeal to vegetarians. Good luck to yuo. Sandra

    By Blogger San_dra, at 11:51 PM  

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