Many farmers and residents in the Alberni Valley would like to see provincial government regulations changed in order to allow for on-farm slaughter of animals in the region.
There are four classes of licensing types for abattoir facilities in the province—A, B, D and E—each permitting different levels of activities.
Earlier this year, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) Agriculture Support Workers launched an abattoir feasibility study to investigate the livestock production necessary to support a full abattoir facility in the Alberni Valley.
The results from the study were presented by Murray Coates, the study’s author, at a town hall style meeting on, Oct. 27.
Heather Shobe, ACRD Agriculture Support Worker, said residents in attendance at the meeting were vocal in saying that although a class A abattoir is desired, high costs to construct this class of facility made many skeptical that it may not be feasible at this time.
“The class A abattoir would cost about $548,000 based on the feasibility study. There were some concerns raised by people about that,” Shobe said. “The general sentiment that came out at the meeting was that a class A wasn’t feasible in the community at this time.”
In 2004 regulations came into place that all meat had to go through a licensed facility if it was to be sold, so the government implemented class A and B licensing. In 2009 class D and E licenses were set up which are options for people in remote communities.
A class A facility permits unlimited slaughter, cutting and wrapping of animals that can be sold to retail establishments and directly to consumers around B.C.
Class D and E abattoirs, which producers at the meeting believed could provide a more immediate and feasible solution to their current challenges, are permitted for slaughter and sales are restricted to within the regional district where produced. Currently, to be eligible for these classes, communities must be at least two hours away from a class A facility.
“For some people it does take more than two hours,” Shobe said. “Technically we’re not classed as that far away so what was coming up at the meeting was that people wanted to lobby government to look at those regulations...that was sort of the direction that we were given to pursue.”
Without an abattoir facility in the Alberni Valley, producers face issues when traveling elsewhere on the Island to slaughter their animals.
“People are waiting a long time to get their animals in [a processing facility]. There’s long transport times which is detrimental to the animals,” Shobe said.
Sixty-three farmers responded to the ACRD’s Abattoir feasibility study, 67 per cent of which said they would expand livestock production if there was a local abattoir.
Going forward, Shobe said research is required for what exactly is needed to be done to get class D and E licensed facility in the Valley.
“I’m really excited to work more with people to try and flesh this out and see what we can do. It’s very challenging making changes to government regulations but we’re not the only community that’s asking for something like this,” Shobe said.
“We really want feedback from people. It’s really important that we’re moving forward in a direction that people want to go.”