THE news that Black Brow abattoir near Wigton is closing tomorrow, July 7, has shocked producers and butchers.

The abattoir, which was taken over in 2004, is used by north Cumbrian farmers who rely on it for slaughtering their livestock.

Many farmers in the area market their meat from their animals direct to consumers, and for this to be possible, there needs to be a small abattoir within reach of their farms.

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Up until now the abattoir, which has been run by local pig farmer, Maurice Wharton, has been running a four-day week, with around 12 workers, and a throughput of a few hundred livestock.

A spokesperson said the abattoir was used for slaughtering cattle, sheep, pigs and goats, but the challenges facing the pig industry currently, had impacted on the business.

A letter informing customers of the closure was sent out last month by Mr Wharton, the managing director, who was not available for comment.

The abattoir, just outside of the village of Aikton, is also currently on the market for £795,000. It sits on a 5.31 acre site and since Mr Wharton took over in 2004, the abattoir has been substantially improved.

National Farmers Union (NFU) Cumbrian council delegate and west Cumbrian farmer, Alistair Mackintosh said Black Brow was situated to service many of the local farmers and butchers and was fundamental to many operations maintaining their business.

"It is a shame and a blow that we are losing yet another small abattoir in this country. The aim is to have a vibrant rural community and it is handy to use a local facility that importantly cut down on local food miles.

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"It is always hard on the farmers and butchers who use it and where do they go now?" said Mr Mackintosh, who is also vice-chair of Red Tractor Assurance.

"I believe the abattoir did a good trade with pigs originally, but now the pig industry is suffering many challenges, and this will have impacted economically on the abattoir.

"Farmers will have to travel further afield which will affect their carbon footprint," added Mr Mackintosh.

The abattoir is for sale through the Carlisle office of Edwin Thompson, and has been marketed as a fully operational abattoir, and a going concern.