If we value high welfare and local food, we need to value small abattoirs. This film shares the story of Robert Whitwam who runs a chicken farm in Huddersfield. Robert prides himself on the welfare of his animals and the fact they are slaughtered on-farm. He supplies 30 local shops and businesses with his home-reared chickens, all within 18 miles of the farm. When the birds are ready for slaughter, they are taken a matter of yards, rather than miles, across the yard to the on-farm abattoir and processed as quickly and humanely as possible.
This stands in stark contrast to the intensive and centralised chicken production system in the UK. Shockingly, a million chickens die every year on their way to slaughter in England and Wales, largely due to poorly ventilated lorries and lack of water. Birds are transported in plastic crates stacked on top of each other, with 20 birds crammed together in each. They can be transported for up to 12 hours without food or water.
There has been a surge in consumer demand for better welfare, environmental sustainability and traceability over the past year. The Government also claims that animal welfare and the environment is high on its agenda, stating they wish to see animals slaughtered close to the point of production.
But as this film shows, the reality for many small abattoir owners is that the costs don’t stack up and the pressures of bureaucracy and regulation are pushing people into making tough decisions. Robert Whitwam will be closing down his business this month. His local customers are now asking where they can turn given Robert was the last local chicken supplier in the region, and one of the last in the country.
This story highlights the urgency of addressing the problems facing small abattoirs and the need to prevent further closures if we are to support viable local food systems in the UK.
Find out more about our work on small abattoirs here.
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