Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
Butchers in Montego Bay, St James, are calling upon Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to come to their assistance as they say the absence of an abattoir is severely impacting their ability to operate legally and within health guidelines.
"Miss Portia, we are calling on you to come to our rescue. Nobody cares about us," declared 78-year-old Montego Bay butcher Harold Housen. "You say you care so we are looking to you to help. Help Miss Portia, help!"
According to the veteran butcher, it is unacceptable that in an era of heightened health concerns, animals are sometimes being slaughtered under conditions that don't measure up to proper health standards.
"It is a shame that we don't have a proper place to butcher animals in this city," said Housen. "Sometimes we slaughter animals at approved places when we get the chance, and we call the health inspectors to come and do their work and they come."
He added: "However, sometimes we just have to slaughter the animal wherever and that is that. So I am asking the prime minister to take this as a matter of priority and help us," added Housen.
The city's municipal abattoir was closed in 2002 by the parish council in what was supposed to have been a temporary measure to allow J$4-million repair work to the facility over a six-week period. However, 10 years have since elapsed without the facility being re-opened, leaving displaced butchers without a suitable place to operate.
Dalton Watt, butcher and proprietor of Duggie's Meat Mart, located in the Hart Street area of downtown Montego Bay, concurred with Housen, saying the use of satellite stations to slaughter animals was inappropriate.
"We need a slaughterhouse now! The current situation is untenable," said Watt. "It has now been 10 years since the abattoir close. We need a centralised location. This cannot continue to happen."
Montego Bay Mayor Glendon Harris told The Gleaner that he too had concerns about the lack of an abattoir for the parish and was doing everything to engage the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the health department in setting up a new facility on lands at Montpelier.
"I have a problem with the satellite stations as right now we are not able to have control over where the meat comes from, so we cannot offer any protection to the farmers," said Harris. "However, we should be having dialogue with the UDC and the health department to act upon a recommendation of a public-private sector partnership in having the facility constructed in Montpelier."