Meat inspectors are demanding better protection against violent staff and owners in abattoirs.
More than half the inspectors have been subjected to violence or intimidation, according to a survey by the public services union Unison and the Meat Hygiene Service. Keith Sonnet, the union's head of local government, said: "Over the years we have heard horrific accounts of violence and threats against our members.
"Some have been physically attacked, threatened with knives and guns and others have had their cars vandalised and offices and property wrecked.
"Apart from actual attacks many staff face a continual tirade of obscenity and abuse which slowly wears down their professional resolve."
"Abattoir violence threatens food safety standards by making it very difficult for inspectors to carry out their jobs effectively. It must be tackled quickly."
Another union spokesman, Ben Priestly, attributed the attacks to inspectors slowing down production lines as they do their jobs, reducing profits in the process.
He said violence had become accepted as "going with the territory" but this was no longer acceptable.
"We want every offender prosecuted," Mr Priestly stated.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been sent a copy of the report. It says it is taking the matter seriously and will look at preventative measures.
Questionnaires were sent out to 1,540 inspectors and 770 returned their forms - 409 staff reported incidents of violence and intimidation.
Verbal abuse was experienced by 75%
8% had property damaged
10% reported a threat with a weapon
The survey revealed that 1% needed medical assistance after assault, 2% had minor injuries, 2% reported sexual harassment and 2% racial harassment.
Unison, Britain's biggest union, has demanded an action plan which includes prevention, adequate staffing, MHS management to support inspection staff, action against the perpetrators of violence and information, instruction and training.
Meat Industry Insights News Service
P.O. Box 553
Northport, NY 11768
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