Amid continuing protests by meat traders and farmers Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced on Wednesday that he has delayed until July the entry into force of a ban on home slaughter of livestock in Armenia.
The government’s State Food Safety Inspectorate began enforcing the ban on January 15, citing the need to prevent the sale of unhealthy or contaminated meat. It thus required shops and market stalls to have documents certifying that meat sold by them is supplied from licensed slaughterhouses.
The decision sparked street protests in Yerevan by farmers who have traditionally slaughtered their livestock on their farms and courtyards. They say that they cannot afford the extra costs of transporting animals to the abattoirs and paying for their slaughter. Disaffected meat vendors in Yerevan make similar arguments.
The government essentially ignored the protesters until the angry farmers began blocking on Tuesday major highways in various parts of the country.
Pashinian announced the six-month reprieve for them when he spoke during the government’s question-and-answer session in the parliament. He stressed that it will not apply to meat sold in supermarkets or served in restaurants in Yerevan.
Pashinian acknowledged that the protesters are right to point to a lack of abattoirs operating in Armenia. But he said their shortage is the result of the authorities’ reluctance to ban home butchery until now.
“In the last one and a half years we have twice approved such delays,” complained Pashinian. “People want to invest money but then think: ‘Maybe I will spend money and built a slaughterhouse and then find out that the government has annulled this requirement.’”
The premier also announced that the government will subsidizing loans and offer other financial incentives to businesspeople willing to build abattoirs. But, he said, this will be conditional on cattle farmers dropping their objections to the more “civilized” form of butchery.
“The sale of meat lying on the asphalt in anti-hygienic conditions must be banned in Armenia,” he declared.