Outrage as Welsh respond to 'dirty' talk

Abattoir bosses have been left fuming by claims from the Welsh Assembly countryside minister, Carwyn Jones, that a lack of hygiene standards is behind the closure of so many small Welsh abattoirs in recent years.

Jones (pictured) made the comments following a statement by butcher and slaughterer William Lloyd Williams, of Machynlleth, at HCC's conference last week, who said Welsh livestock production was "being crippled because independent slaughterers were driven out of business by the weight of needless regulation".

The minister said: "A lot of the abattoirs that closed, particularly in the nineties, deserved to close. I was involved with a lot of them, in terms of legal work, and they were appalling. There was no way they should have been allowed to continue and they were rightly shut down." He went on to argue that the abattoirs that had remained open had done so because they were of a far higher hygiene standard.

"Standards have improved an awful lot and that is why we can now sell to the world," he added.

However, his remarks have provoked outrage in the small to medium sector, with Norman Bagley, policy director with the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, branding Jones's comments an "outrageous misunderstanding of the effects of the imposition of EU Regulations", which, he says, cannot go unchallenged.

"There is not a shred of evidence that the introduction of EU regulations in 1995 delivered any genuine benefits to public health at all," Bagley said. "The only beneficiaries have been MHS bureaucrats and EU veterinarians and the losers have been the Welsh people and Welsh farming."

Bagley told the Journal there was no evidence any business could produce meat of a higher hygienic quality, just because it was able to "cope with hordes of officials and avalanches of paperwork."

He said it was the regulators who were responsible for many "top-class producing" plants to "close in despair"; concentrating Welsh slaughtering capacity in "too few hands".

"Radical reform of official controls in the abattoir sector is urgently required to place the focus on the public health standard of the product, rather than the emphasis on maximising bureaucracy and regulations."

The Minister defended his position commenting: "In order to maintain and build upon the excellent reputation that Welsh meat has throughout the world, hygiene within the industry is paramount.

"My comments at the Hybu Cig Cymru conference were to emphasise that by adhering to regulations and maintaining high levels of hygiene, some of the best facilities in the world have been established, here in Wales. This not only creates a high level of public confidence in Welsh meat, but also helps to secure a prosperous future for the industry."

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