This decision follows talks between QMS and representatives of Quality Pork Limited (QPL), Tulip Ltd, Scottish Pig Producers (SSP) and Scotlean to support the pork industry to minimise the disruption caused by the on-going shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The Brechin abattoir run by QPL, a collaboration involving SPP, Scotlean and Tulip, is currently unable to operate as a result of the acute shortage of CO2, which is needed for processing pigs.
“QPL made us aware of the challenges they anticipated at an early stage and have kept us updated daily on the position at the Brechin plant,” said Alan Clarke, chief executive of QMS. “While every effort has been made by QPL to secure supplies of CO2, the plant ran out yesterday and processing has had to stop.
“The processing capacity at Brechin accounts for around two-thirds of the pigs slaughtered in Scotland and QMS is keen to support the Scottish pig and pork industry to limit the impact of the temporary closure of this abattoir, including any animal welfare implications.”
Following consultation with the companies involved, the Scottish SPCA and wider industry representatives including full exploration of alternatives, QMS has decided to grant a temporary derogation. This will allow pigs eligible for the Specially Selected Pork brand, which would have been slaughtered at Brechin, to be slaughtered in an abattoir run by Tulip at Ashton.
The derogation is subject to stringent conditions and will be reviewed weekly. As well as sending some pigs south of the border for slaughter, QPL has also introduced other contingency measures. These include working in collaboration with other pork production companies in Scotland, which are now taking some of the pigs previously destined for Brechin.
“QMS has very carefully considered the wider implications of this decision and also sought advice relating to animal welfare from the Scottish SPCA,” said Clarke. “The shortage of CO2 affecting the Brechin premises – which is responsible for over 60% of the Scottish pig slaughter capacity – has created an exceptional set of circumstances.
“Our decision to grant a temporary derogation reflects that exceptional situation and has been taken in the best interests of the Scottish pig industry and the Specially Selected Pork brand.”
He added: “It is particularly unfortunate that the Brechin plant has faced this challenge so soon after the re-opening of the site which had to be closed as a result of a fire last year.”
Meanwhile, Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland president, has written to Secretary of State Greg Clark asking that the pig and poultry processors be given priority ahead of other industries when distributing the short supply of CO2 gas.
He wrote: “Pig and poultry farms are finely tuned and rely on stock leaving farms at a certain time, with new stock coming in behind. Any disruption to the ability to move stock ready for the market can rapidly have consequences on the space available on a farm and replacement animals cannot be simply turned off like a tap, they need to go somewhere.
“NFU Scotland recognises that, with many businesses all needing CO2, it is easy to see this as a matter for those individual businesses to address with no need for Government intervention.
“However, we would request that given the potential impact on animal welfare if slaughter businesses are unable to operate, and their relative disadvantage in terms of size and influence, there is a need for Government intervention to ensure available supplies are directed towards slaughterhouses based on their need.”