A SURVEY has been released to gather the thoughts of Scottish farmers and crofters on the viability of establishing mobile abattoirs across Scotland.

With rising consumer demand for traceable, locally sourced meat, the closure of a number of abattoir facilities across the country has come as a huge blow to many of Scotland’s rural communities. The closure of Orkney's only abattoir in January 2018 caused great outcry as all livestock had to be shipped off the island for slaughter and similarly in other regions of the country animals are travelling much further to be killed.

This prompted the Scottish Government to commission research into the feasibility of developing mobile abattoirs to serve rural communities and whether such a move could be sustainable longer-term.

They outsourced the research to consulting company Enscape who last week released a survey to engage with and gather the opinions of interested stakeholders. Early indications show there has been a significant response with producers and processors across the country demonstrating a real interest in maintaining the provenance of their meat.

KeepScotlandTheBrand has passionately campaigned for research into mobile abattoirs for many years and their founder Ruth Watson commented: “The survey on mobile abattoirs is crucial to many rural communities and to many local businesses. The closure of Kirkwall abattoir on Orkney was a huge loss not only to Orkney PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) but to the likes of the Boreray flock, which is a rare ancient breed of sheep which doesn’t cope well travelling,” she explained. “I’m pleased that KeepScotlandTheBrand has been able to raise awareness of these important questions.”

Enscape’s Brian Menzies commented on their research: “The crofting, smallholding and farming community play an important role in providing locally sourced, high quality meat, but we are also aware of the challenges that are faced by the sector overall.

“We are keen to discuss not only the issues, but potential ideas on how to make mobile abattoirs work,” he explained. “If you are part of this community and have views on this, or are potentially interested in utilising a mobile abattoir, we ask you to get in touch for an informal discussion, and/or to complete a survey. At this stage, we are looking at the extent of the demand for mobile abattoirs in Scotland, rather than any firm commitments”.

An organic farmer and local councillor from the Scottish borders, Heather Anderson, made the point that a review is needed to look into the wider supply chain: “Abattoirs are one part of the chain and significant re-engineering of the distribution and retail infrastructure is required for any of this to work. There are virtually no routes to market outside the multiple retailers so unless you are a farmer who owns their farm and is willing to borrow to build a farm shop on your farm, there are few outlets,” she stressed.

“It’s a big infrastructure issue and you can’t just fix one bit of it without looking at the whole network. It’s great we are at least having the conversation – but we need to make more noise about this, particularly with Brexit coming down the track,” she concluded.

The survey is provisionally open until September 20 with Enscape due to present their findings to the Scottish Government in November. For those looking to go into further detail than allowed in the short questionnaire they are encouraged to contact Mr Menzies on 01569 764883 or brianmenzies@enscape.eu

The survey can be found at - https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/2ZT97FM