Abattoir checks 'ruined by fear'

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CONSUMERS ARE being put at risk because abattoir inspectors often face threats and violence, a union said yesterday.

Inspectors have been physically attacked, threatened with knives and guns and subjected to "tirades of obscenity". As a result, their union claims, they are often too intimidated to do their job properly.

New figures suggest three-quarters of inspectors have been subjected to intimidation or violence. While most intimidation was in the form of verbal abuse, one in ten inspectors has been threatened by someone armed with a weapon.

The claims have been made by the public sector union Unison, which surveyed more than 1,000 members working within the meat hygiene service.

"Some of our members have been physically attacked, threatened with knives and guns and others have had their cars vandalised and offices and property wrecked," said Keith Sonnet, the union's head of local government.

"Apart from actual attacks many staff face a continual tirade of obscenity and abuse which slowly wears down their professional resolve."

The survey found that 75 per cent of those questioned had suffered verbal abuse, 8 per cent had property damaged while 10 per cent had been threatened with a weapon. Two per cent had suffered minor injuries while 1 per cent needed medical assistance for injuries they had received.

Yesterday the Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, said the Government was taking action to deal with the problem. The chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service, Johnston McNeill, said he was establishing a hotline members could use to report any incidents.