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New group to strengthen island abattoirs

Scalloway crofter Ronnie Eunson (centre left next to the Prince of Wales) is chairing the new Scottish Island Abattoir Association.

SHETLAND’S community-owned abattoir is at the forefront of a new association of Scottish island slaughterhouses whose future is being safeguarded with help from Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

Local crofter Ronnie Eunson is chairing the new Scottish Island Abattoir Association, which has received £300,000 from the prince’s charity Scottish Business in the Community and the Scottish government.

Eunson said the new fund would pay for two new apprentices and some new equipment, as well as extending the butchery section of the Lerwick abattoir.

More importantly it should raise the profile and strengthen the voice of the island abattoirs, many of which have been vulnerable to modern market and regulatory pressures.

The new association has been created as part of the Sustaining Island Abattoirs in Scotland Project set up by the prince two years ago when he realised the parlous state of some of the slaughterhouses in the western isles.

It reflects his commitment to protecting fragile communities and their local economies, while enhancing animal welfare and reducing environmental impact by reducing the food miles of exporting animals to be slaughtered on the Scottish mainland.

The new association will share best practice and provide business mentoring as well as capital investment and marketing support.

A total of 15 young people are being taken on as apprentices, including the two young men recently employed in the Lerwick facility at Staney Hill.

Eunson praised the Prince of Wales for helping a sector that “no government agency was willing to take on”, adding that his involvement had probably saved some abattoirs from closure.

He said that the Shetland facility had seen a threefold increase in the amount of beef it processed in the four years since it opened, with that figure set to increase in the future.

He added that it was an example of best practice, largely because it was designed by the local industry with the community’s needs in mind.

“Apart from Orkney, Shetland is probably the safest when it comes to viability,” he said.

“But now we have an association and this sum of money to bring some of the facilities up to a standard, we can raise our profile so the Scottish government and HIE look more favourably and keeping these places open.

“I also hope it will help to ensure that the folk that work in these abattoirs are treated with more respect as central providers of meat for the local community.”

Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said the government was delighted to be involved in the scheme to “underpin the long term viability of the island abattoirs”.

“The Scottish Government is committed to the principle that animals should be slaughtered as close to where they are reared as possible,” he said.

Scottish Business in the Community chief executive Jane Wood said they would be using the project to develop new marketing opportunities for the islands’ local meat producers.

“Much work remains to be done, but the economic and social value of this intervention cannot be underestimated,” she said.

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