Highlands and Islands Greens
Highlands and Islands Greens

Scott Calls for More Rural Slaughterhouses

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Revival Could Boost Marketing, Safety, Jobs and Quality in Red Meat Industry

Securing the future of small rural abattoirs across Scotland is crucial in ensuring animal welfare, limiting spread of diseases such as foot and mouth, reducing food miles and supporting rural jobs, MSPs will argue in the Parliament today. (1) All policy and legislation that affect meat production should be ‘rural proofed’ and new abattoirs should be more creatively supported to stem the decline that has seen the number fall from 79 to 44 in the last 20 years. (2)

The memberʼs debate, led by Eleanor Scott, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, follows a consultation process which gave dozens of individuals and organisations a chance to comment on the future of – and challenges facing – the industry.

Dr Scott received a huge response from a wide range of bodies as varied and disparate as the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Advocates for Animals, Compassion in World Farming, Scottish Crofting Foundation, National Farmers Union, Meat Traders Association, the Countryside Alliance, the Soil Association and Quality Meat Scotland.  In a rare consensus, the responses have been overwhelmingly in favour of her campaign to protect and promote rural abattoirs.

Dr Scott said: “Over the past 20 years the number of red meat abattoirs in Scotland has reduced from 79 to only 44.  This has increased transport costs for producers, causes problems with animal welfare and increases the risks to human and animal health through the spread of diseases such as foot and mouth and BSE.  I want to see this trend reversed and to see a revival of people shopping for locally produced meat at local butcher shops, rather than buying mass-produced meat from supermarkets that has probably travelled the length of the country before reaching the shelf.

“My campaign for more rural abattoirs aims to link up the food chain and give farmers and crofters more opportunities to supply to local butchers, restaurants, hotels and other food outlets.  Whether it’s a slap-up steak, the Sunday roast, or the sausages for breakfast, I want more of us to have access to meat grazed on local land, knowing that the money we pay for our food has stayed in our own community, rather than filling the coffers of multinational agribusiness and supermarkets.

“I have been overwhelmed by the strength of feeling that people have about this issue and how much support there is to keep existing abattoirs open and to re-open those, like the one at Ballygrant on Islay, that have closed recently.

“I want to see a turnaround in attitude from the Executive.  Instead of seeing it as inevitable that abattoirs must go if they do not abide by each new piece of regulation, the Executive should treat abattoirs as essential rural services and make sure that they have the support that they need to satisfy the regulatory regime.”

Dr Scott will call for all policy that affects meat production to be ‘rural proofed’ to prevent further threats to the existing network of rural abattoirs, particularly small low-throughput units.  She will also propose that new abattoirs be more creatively supported as valuable opportunities to meet a range of rural development and sustainability objectives.

Dr Scott said: “The priority must be to protect the existing network of rural abattoirs, but there are also areas in rural Scotland where a new slaughterhouse could play an important role in reducing the environmental, animal welfare and financial impacts of livestock transportation, supporting rural businesses and increasing the availability of locally-produced meat.”

Dr Scottʼs debate is part of the Food Revolution campaign, which aims to stop the supermarket-driven trend towards poor quality mass-produced processed food products and instead to promote good, healthy, affordable, ethical, local food (3).


1. The motion for debate on Wednesday 15 December is:

S2M-1721# Eleanor Scott: Rural Abattoirs – That the Parliament notes that the number of red meat abattoirs in Scotland has fallen from 79 to only 44 in the past 20 years, whereas Austria has sustained over 3,000 slaughter facilities in this period; deplores this reduction, given the detrimental impact on animal welfare that results from increased transportation times; recognises the benefits to rural livelihoods, animal welfare and local food production that more rural abattoirs would bring, and considers that the Scottish Executive should invest in, and support the establishment of, new, modern slaughterhouses throughout rural Scotland.

2. Until 1971, local authorities were obliged to provide slaughterhouse facilities in their area.  This was abandoned in 1971 and the decline started, exacerbated by new and increased regulation and legislation.

3. The food campaign has four themes:

  • safe food (control pesticide use, campaign against GM and encourage organic farming)
  • fair food (to ensure farmers receive a fair price for their goods, and to help low income households source healthy food)
  • good food (promote access to fresh, high quality food, especially in schools and hospitals)
  • local food (to cut down on food miles and boost farmersʼ markets and independent shops thereby preserving jobs in the area)

Download the full ‘Food Revolution’ campaign document from www.scottishgreens.org.uk