A Co. Cork-based TD has warned that there remains a “lack of certainty” over the future of local council funding for veterinary inspections of small abattoirs.

According to Cork South-West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, an agreement recently put in place between local authorities and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) will not be enough to alleviate threats to the “sustainability of local butchers and village economics”.

The Fianna Fáil TD called on his party colleague, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, to close a €1.2 million funding gap in the current agreement between the FSAI and the The County and City Management Association (CCMA) and to ensure the funding arrangement extends beyond its current end-date of December 2021.

If the veterinary inspections can’t be carried out, local abattoirs close and then local butchers close. And once they’re gone they won’t come back.

“Local butchers are fundamental to the economic health of our towns and sit at the core of rural society,” he stressed.

O’Sullivan continued: “I’m calling on the Minister for Health to close the funding gap and ensure the agreement continues past its current end date. A funding shortfall of about €1.2 million is threatening the ability of local authorities to hire veterinarians to carry out inspections on small abattoirs.

“This is fundamentally important – food on the kitchen table, produce for your favourite restaurant. We must keep these environmentally sustainable and vitally important local supply chains viable,” O’Sullivan concluded.

Last week, an agreement was reached between the FSAI and the CCMA in a dispute over the funding of food safety controls, including veterinary inspections, which had threatened to shut 120 butchers and abattoirs at the end of next month.

The dispute broke out between local authorities and the FSAI because the Local Authority Veterinary Service (LAVS) is due to finish at the end of November.

In a statement on the matter last week, the food safety authority said: “The FSAI is pleased to confirm that the County and City Management Association (CCMA) has agreed to continue to provide food safety controls in the small slaughterhouses and meat processing establishments under local authority supervision after November 30, 2020.

“This means that there will be no change to how food safety controls are carried out in these food businesses from December 1, 2020,” the statement noted.