RURAL MSPs have called on the Scottish Government to consider local slaughtering solutions such as mobile abattoirs, to address the issue of abattoir closures and the long distances travelled by livestock for slaughter.

Gail Ross, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, who has actively campaigned on behalf of her constituents to address this issue, directly questioned the rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing during questions in Holyrood.

“Many farmers and crofters in rural areas are faced with long journeys to get their animals slaughtered and butchered,” said Ms Ross. “What support can be given for local solutions such as mobile abattoirs, cooperatives or farm butchery?”

Mr Ewing replied: “As a proud advocate for and an enthusiastic consumer of high-quality Scotch beef, lamb and pork – such adequate provision is plainly vital and I’m aware of Gail Ross’s strong interest in this and I am happy to support any developments which are brought forward and will work closely with her on these campaigning efforts.”

During the discussion it was noted by Mr Ewing that Scotland is currently home to 25 approved red meat slaughterhouses – a reduction of 34% over the past decade. The average distance travelled by Scottish animals to slaughter has increased over the years with many making the journey to England and Wales for the process.

Further support for developing local slaughter facilities has been raised by South of Scotland MSP, Emma Harper, who has written to the Scottish Government proposing the use of mobile abattoirs in Scotland: "Mobile abattoir use is one way to promote animal welfare because they eliminate the need for livestock to travel long distances. Most livestock do not leave the farm until slaughter so the travelling paired with new surroundings can cause intense stress to the animals, and there is evidence that increased travel leads to increased stress levels,” said Ms Harper.

"Earlier this year in May, when I held a parliamentary event on behalf of the National Sheep Association, it was brought to my attention by John Fyall, the Chair of the NSA in Scotland, that only 12% of Scottish-born lambs are slaughtered in Scotland. This means we have a real opportunity to increase the number of sheep and lambs slaughtered north of the border, which would support the provenance of Scotch Lamb,” she concluded.

The South Scotland MSP's position is backed by the Chairman of the Scottish Crofting Federation, Russell Smith: "The Federation supports the idea of introducing mobile abattoirs in Scotland. It is something we have looked at in the past and consider to be an option going forward to tackle the situation we are faced with in Scotland where more and more abattoirs are closing, which in turn has seen beasts having to travel farther in order to be killed,” he commented.

"It is a system which works in other countries in Europe so we don't see why there is any reason it wouldn't work in Scotland. Anything that helps our crofters and small producers, that is profitable and makes their lives easier, we will support,” stressed Mr Russell.

Globally, the use of mobile abattoirs is not a new practice and is widely used in European countries such as France, Germany, Norway and Sweden, as well as the United States.