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Dispute could mean 100,000 fewer turkeys available for Christmas dinners this year

The Irish Farmers Journal has said the dispute centres on who pays and manages the work of veterinarians who certify local abattoirs.

Image: Shutterstock/Alfa Photostudio

A LONG-RUNNING funding dispute could mean the shutting of local abattoirs in the run-up to Christmas.

The Irish Farmers Journal has reported that the dispute between the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and county managers from the local authorities could mean that thousands of households may not be able to have a turkey dinner this Christmas. 

The dispute relates to the management and funding of veterinarians who certify small-scale abattoirs.

These abattoirs would slaughter 100,000 turkeys that would likely end up on Christmas dinner tables, from small producers around the country.

Social Democrat TD for Cork South West Holly Cairns said that she had raised the issue of vets who certify small abattoirs with the Minister for Agriculture and that there “seems to have been a policy change in this area which has failed to consider the full implications”. 

A temporary solution over the summer has ceased, and around €1 million is needed to fund the service.

Talks between the FSAI and the County and City Management Association (CCMA) have reached a stalemate, with the CCMA confirming it will terminate the contract on 30 November. 

Fórsa’s Peter Nolan, who represents the local authority veterinarians, said these vets are “caught in the middle” and has called on both sides to enter talks to find a solution. 

The Farmers Journal also reported that farmers have been caught unawares by the dispute and worried about the effect it could have on their main source of annual income. 

“We’ll be left in limbo with no way to kill the birds in time for our Christmas customers,” one farmer said. 

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Cairns added: “This has come as a complete surprise to many in the industry and is a completely unnecessary disruption at a crucial time for the year for farmers and small family-run abattoirs.

“If it is harder to access a vet to certify an abattoir it will undoubtedly result in the closure of abattoirs. These piecemeal closures may seem insignificant and accidental but they are driven by policy decisions like this one.

“This kind of policy has been forcing small butchers and abattoirs to close down for years now, it has been disastrous and is a display of government favoritism towards bigger business in the meat industry consistently eroding farmers and workers rights.”

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the FSAI said: “The FSAI has sought to resolve with the local authorities the issue of the service contract arrangements, that ultimately protect consumer health. It also wished to align the cost of the service with its available funding. The FSAI has been in continual discussions with the Department of Health, its funding department, on the matter.

It is essential that an alternative system of food safety controls is put in place immediately to commence on 1 December 2020. This will enable the continued operation of the 529 food businesses that  are supervised by the local authorities, including 176 slaughterhouses that would otherwise be unable to operate. The FSAI will exert all efforts to seek a smooth transition to put in place a system of food safety controls that will ensure effective supervision of these small slaughterhouses and meat processing establishments  and continued protection of consumer health.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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