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Shame on the Live/Deadstock Industry and Sham Surveillance - 20/11/2006
 
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is beet with problems in the dairy, poultry and meat industries involving surveillance of manufacturing practices and assertion of controls. Manufacturers and retailers are seeking relaxations by which they would run their own affairs, reducing the costs and levies they deem excessive for the activities of the Meat Hygiene Service. These discussions are frustrating analyses of meat inspectors’ records of rejections of carcases and offal as suitable for human consumption, which would yield valuable evidence of husbandry and handling of live animals up to the final act of killing. Bruising is an example of significance in assessing welfare – or, more likely ill fare.

Two examples from last year illustrate the industries’ disquiet and at the same time our concern that they are not competent to administer their own policing.

1. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is beet with problems in the dairy, poultry and meat industries involving surveillance of manufacturing practices and assertion of controls. Manufacturers and retailers are seeking relaxations by which they would run their own affairs, reducing the costs and levies they deem excessive for the activities of the Meat Hygiene Service. These discussions are frustrating analyses of meat inspectors’ records of rejections of carcases and offal as suitable for human consumption, which would yield valuable evidence of husbandry and handling of live animals up to the final act of killing. Bruising is an example of significance in assessing welfare – or, more likely ill fare.

2. Two examples from last year illustrate the industries’ disquiet and at the same time our concern that they are not competent to administer their own policing.

3. A Middlesbrough butcher was fined at total of almost £8000 and was banned from running any food business after he was discovered by environmental health officers dumping sheep’s heads and cows’ hooves and stomachs in the streets in residential areas. Jalal Sulman, who was running Fatema Supermarket and Butchers in the town, admitted 19 breaches of food hygiene and environmental protection laws.

4. When EHOs inspected the premises they found sheep heads, bags of sheep feet and a bag of cow hooves “which still had dung and hair on them” (Meat Trades Journal, 03/03/05). Further, “raw meat and cooked products were also found stored together”. Jalal Sulman’s defending solicitor said that his client had moved to the UK 8 years ago but was “still unaware of cultural differences”. He attributed the problem to “a lack of understanding and naivety” and “a cultural difference between what goes on in this country and what goes on in Iraq”. The chairman of the Middlesbrough Bench emphasized that the accused was “ultimately responsible for the operation of this business, including the action or omissions of your employees”. Jalal Sulman was fined £3800 with costs of £4000.

5. Moray Council EHOs found ground “awash with blood” when they checked on Welsh farmer Julian Jones, who was slaughtering sheep illegally for the “smokie” trade in London.

6. Mr Jones had been banned in 1999 by Lampeter magistrates for life “for cruelty to animals and failing to dispose of carcases”. He had moved to Buckie, near the Moray Firth coast in North East Scotland. In one of the barns he bled sheep without stunning and kept the chest and stomach contents in buckets. “Despite not following religious rules the carcases were often sold as halal”. Sheep were shorn and then a blowtorch was used to singe the remaining wool off to create smokies. When EHOs visited the farm Jones said he was supplying smokies to butcher shops in areas “where there were large West African or Jamaican communities”.

7. The defence solicitor at Elgin Sheriff court said that his client “knows that Muslims are very particular and fastidious about the production of their food. But the products were not sold to the public, just to halal butchers”.

8. These examples and failures of control this year (including yet more misgivings over the ridiculous “free range” claims that fool only the thickest of animal welfarists and retailers) indicate the need for ever more rigorous activity by the Food Standards Agency and its collaborators, with measures that will curtail throughputs in industries needing severe and overdue restrictions. EU inspections this month may shame the UK authorities and prompt reforms to the benefit of farm animal welfare as well as hygiene.
 
 
 

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