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sheep lambing Iceland
Photo: Golli.

Home Slaughter of Lambs Legalised

Minister of Agriculture Kristján Þór Júlíusson has signed a regulation permitting farmers to slaughter their own lambs and goats on their farms and to distribute the meat themselves. Farmers were previously required to send livestock to slaughter at licensed slaughterhouses. The regulation has been in discussion for years and is one part of a 12-point action plan in support of farmers to meet the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s long been called for that farmers be allowed to slaughter sheep and goats on the farms themselves and distribute them on the market,” stated Kristján Þór. “Over the past two years, extensive work has been carried out in consultation with farmers and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) to find ways to authorise this production so that it meets food safety requirements and animal welfare and animal health are safeguarded. This change that we’re making today marks a turning point, as this change involves an important opportunity to strengthen value creation and farmers’ profits in the future.”

Last summer, the Minister signed a contract with the chairman of the National Association of Sheep Farmers to conduct a pilot project on home slaughter in the fall. The project went well overall and samples showed good results, though remote monitoring proved a challenge. The regulations, therefore, stipulate that publicly-employed veterinarians carry out health inspections both before and after slaughter, paid for by the state treasury.

MAST has prepared an explanatory booklet for farmers on the new regulation.

The measure should help farmers create more value, which has proven a struggle in recent years. Indeed, there have not been fewer sheep in Iceland since 1861. The relatively low price of lamb and changing consumer tastes are two of the factors that have led to farmers reducing numbers in their flocks or leaving the industry.

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