A NEW campaign body has been formed to champion small local abattoirs across the UK.

The creation of the Abattoir Sector Group comes on the back of recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare’s report into ‘The Future for Small Abattoirs in the UK’.

The ASG states its mission as being to support and develop a thriving network of local abattoirs across the UK, which it described as essential to maintaining high animal welfare standards, supporting sustainable farming and meeting the rising demand for local meat.

The group intends to achieve this by raising the importance of small abattoirs across Governments, ensuring they are included in all relevant policy formation, seeking access to funding and sharing best practice to help small abattoirs play a role in local food production.

Members include the Sustainable Food Trust, Fir Farm, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the Prince’s Countryside Fund, National Craft Butchers, Animal Health and Welfare Board England and small abattoir operators based in Scotland, England, and Wales. British Veterinary Association past-president and senior lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, Dr Simon Docherty, is the chair, with small abattoir owner John Mettrick as vice chair.

Dr Doherty said: “Our aim is to ensure policy makers consider the vital role these smaller scale abattoirs play in local food production and within wider commitments to lift welfare standards, increase sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.

"We are excited about ongoing work with the FSA, Defra and other governing bodies to ensure that local abattoirs are seen as one of the key elements if we are to meet Governments’ aims such as reducing live transport of animals and keeping our rural economies thriving, whilst transforming how we produce food in a more sustainable way," said Mr Doherty. "ASG will be working to ensure smaller abattoirs are part of the infrastructure to support local food systems and rural economies, will be promoting the reduction of bureaucracy and simplification of paperwork and will work to improve coordination across government departments.”

Mr Mettrick of National Craft Butchers explained: “A network of small abattoirs supports livestock farming and the development of small businesses, through the provision of ‘private kill’ and the easy return of livestock products to farmers and collaborators to add value to those products. Small abattoirs are also an essential link in the supply chain of local, traceable and high welfare meat, which has seen a significant rise in consumer demand.”

His sentiments were backed by chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden, who said: “After three years of campaigning for local abattoirs we strongly welcome the establishment of the new Abattoir Sector Group. Without a UK-wide network of small abattoirs, it will be impossible for farmers to deliver local, welfare friendly meat, with minimum distances to slaughter, which millions of people are now demanding.”