Investigation continues into Forkhill illegal abattoir

March 10, 2014

The discovery of a suspected illegal animal slaughter operation in Forkhill last week has caused widespread concern.

Investigations are still continuing to determine the supply chain of meat from the plant and to establish if there is any risk to public health.  The operation was discovered last Monday, following searches at two properties in Forkhill.

A third search was also carried out in Bessbrook, but police have confirmed that no illegal activity was discovered at that location.

In the wake of the disturbing find, Health Minister Edwin Poots moved to allay public concern and “keep some perspective on the situation.” Mr Poots urged people to buy their meat from an approved source “as opposed to out of the back of a van” and reiterated that the illegal abattoir was not a large scale operation nor was there any evidence to suggest that such an operation was common practice.

Sinn Féin councillor Terry Hearty, said the discovery of suspected illegal meat entering the food chain would cause great concern in the local meat industry.

“All of the farmers here are qualified under the Farm Quality Assured scheme and their cattle are looked after to a very high standard,” he said.

“When it goes to the factories, it is overseen by the Food Standards Agency and by Dard, all to a very high standard.”

Mr Hearty said the public would be concerned as to the conditions which might exist within illegal abattoirs.  He also said he did not believe there was any paramilitary involvement in the illegal meat industry in South Armagh.

DUP MLA for Newry and Armagh William Irwin said he was pleased to see some action being taken on the issue of illegal abattoirs in the area and revealed he had received a number of reports about illegal slaughtering.

“Obviously, the health risks to the public through contaminated meat produce sourced from illegal plants with no hygiene regulations or safety standards and, most worryingly, no traceability in place, could be catastrophic,” he said.

The multi-agency operation into the illegal animal slaughter and meat operation is being led by the PSNI, and supported by the Department of Agriculture, the Food Standards Agency, and Newry and Mourne District Council.

A statement from Newry and Mourne District Council released after the discovery confirmed that evidence of recently slaughtered animals was found at the agricultural buildings in question but that there was no evidence at the early stages of the investigation that meat from the premises had been placed on the market.

“Investigations are ongoing to determine the supply chain of meat from this unapproved establishment,” the statement continued,

“At this stage of the investigation there is no indication that meat has been supplied illegally to the premises in Bessbrook and no meat has been seized or detained at this premises.

“DARD found evidence of possible offences and are continuing with their investigations.”

In a conversation with The Examiner last Friday, a spokesperson for Newry and Mourne District Council confirmed that the council would not be making any further comment on the matter until investigations were completed.