Alternatives to clipping

A report about the importance of livestock cleanliness in the battle against E coli has been published.

The report, commissioned by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), examines different techniques used around the world to prevent carcase contamination at the time of slaughter.

Problems were found with clipping, the technique widely used on live cattle in Britain to remove dirty hair from the hide; which is often dangerous and can result in injuries to farmers. According to the report 'clipping of live animals can present serious risks to human health and safety'.

Severe bruising, cuts, and even broken limbs are risked in order to get animals clean enough for slaughter. Andy McGowan, industry development manager at QMS described the risks: "When you put your hands around the legs of cattle with a clipper, the chances of getting kicked are very high."

Alternative techniques reviewed in the report include washing, post-slaughter clipping, steam treatment of hides and singeing. These methods could be considered under the European Union food regulations introduced in January this year. The regulations mean the policy of grading animals in terms of wetness and dirtiness before slaughter, first introduced after the 1996 E coli outbreak in Widshaw, Scotland when more than 20 died, is now not compulsory. Animals must be clean, but it is up to individual slaughterhouses to decide their own system of regulation.

QMS says the aim of the report is to get the industry talking. The report, 'Livestock Cleanliness, a whole chain approach' makes no recommendations. Its aim, according to McGowan is to "provide all parties - the government and industry - with the facts... and start a discussion for Scottish lobby organisations."