Northern Ireland

Armagh searches over illegal slaughtered meat claims

Cow in field
Image caption An investigation is under way into the illegal slaughter of animals in County Armagh

Three properties in County Armagh have been searched following claims that animals are being slaughtered illegally for food.

Two properties in Forkhill and one in Bessbrook were the focus of the searches.

Police, the Department of Agriculture, the Food Standards Agency and Newry and Mourne council were involved.

A suspected illegal animal slaughter operation had been found at Forkhill. Nothing was uncovered at Bessbrook.

It is understood various items have been removed for examination.

Maria Jennings from the Food Standards Agency, said: "The information we have tells us that meat was being produced illegally, without official hygiene checks.

"We are currently investigating which businesses have been supplied with meat from the plant.

"We will provide further information once we have it."

Chf Insp Davy Beck said the investigation was at an early stage. He said the aim was to address agricultural crime and work with partner organisations to protect the safety of the food chain.

DUP MLA for Newry and Armagh William Irwin said he had received a number of reports about illegal slaughtering.

"I am pleased to see some action being taken on the issue of illegal abattoirs in south Armagh," he said.

"Obviously, the health risks to the public through contaminated meat produce sourced from illegal plants with no hygiene regulations or safety standards and, most worryingly, no traceability in place, could be catastrophic.

"I think all right thinking people will welcome this operation by the police and other agencies today."

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