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Foot-and-mouth shuts up to half UK's 360 abattoirs

Foot-and-mouth shuts up to half UK's 360 abattoirs
Meat production industry hits back at allegations that slaughtermen deliberately spread Disease

August 11, 2001 Financial Times (London) by Jim Pickard

Up to half the 360 abattoirs in Britain have temporarily closed as a result of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, the British Meat Federation has claimed.

The federation, hitting back at claims that slaughtermen were deliberately spreading the disease to profit from the ongoing cull, said the meat industry was another victim of the epidemic.

Peter Scott, of the federation, said 200 abattoirs were closed in any week because of foot-and-mouth. "Farmers are still traumatised by the impact of this disease. They have had seven months of it and are having a terrible time. In some cases, it is letting them say things that, if they thought about it more carefully, they probably would not say," he said.

The epidemic has hit abattoirs which had already taken a knock from the BSE epidemic and mass closures of smaller plants.

"The epidemic has brought our members less business. It will be another problem because there are more constraints on operating a slaughterhouse with greater levels of supervision, such as separate washdown and disinfection facilities," said Mr Scott.

John Chadwick, of the Small Abattoir Federation, said many of the closed abattoirs could shut permanently. At the peak of the epidemic, extra staff were taken on by the companies which slaughtered the infected animals.

There have been reports of slaughtermen earning three times their usual salary for the government work.

Glyn Powell, deputy chairman of the Farmers' Union of Wales, said slaughtermen had a vested interest in keeping the cull going.

Meanwhile, vets in the Brecon Beacons are set to carry out foot-and-mouth tests on sheep from across the park's entire flock of up to 100,000 sheep. There have been 10,000 sheep culled in the Welsh mountain area in the last few weeks.

The mass testing of samples from across the Brecons is to allay fears that the disease may have spread throughout the "hefts", the groups of sheep, which live on the moors.

The national assembly has begun a policy of contiguous culling to speed up the process after two hefts were found to have the disease on Thursday.


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