Behind the doors of Jersey’s abattoir

Behind the doors of Jersey’s abattoir

In the quiet corners of Jersey’s only abattoir, Charlie Blackmore and John Taylor carry out a challenging yet essential role for the Island. With more than a decade of experience each, these dedicated men open up about their roles as abattoir operatives and knackermen, providing a unique perspective on the daily challenges they face.

The abattoir, working hand in hand with Jersey’s farming industry, sees Tuesdays as process days for cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats, and Thursdays as dispatch days for farmers to collect their produce. The remaining days are dedicated to the crucial tasks of cleaning and sterilising, animal-by-products (ABP) work, as well as responding to emergencies that frequently come up.

For Charlie and John, their journey to the abattoir started in unexpected places – both previously working in the Infrastructure and Environment department’s drainage team. Their dedication to the job is evident in the stories they share, from the challenging task of dealing with a stranded whale in 2017, to confronting the emotional toll of culling birds during a bird flu outbreak, and dealing with the sudden death of more than 100 cows in 2022.

“We were needed up at the farm when all those cows died suddenly. When you see this guy at midnight, in tears, it was hard. People don’t see that side of things.”

The duo emphasise that welfare is at the heart of all their work. Despite the sad nature of their duties, they treat every animal that comes through the abattoir, and ABP with the utmost care and respect.

“We certainly won’t accept any animals that we have doubts about. It’s important they come to us having been treated well, and we will continue to treat them well right up until the very end.”

John explains that as a chargehand, he is often called upon to deal with the sudden deaths of large animals such as horses, and highlights the emotional weight attached to each situation.

“It’s a life – often someone’s pet – their pride and joy, so we don’t just rush in, we stay with the family for however long it takes. I’ve been at a horse for over an hour while a young girl is tied to its neck hugging it, of course I just stand back until they are ready. We take horses to a chap who does private cremations and while we can’t give ashes back, we sometimes get calls from the owners thanking us or asking to send some hair or a hoof back to them, which we do.”

The abattoir has been designed with the animals’ comfort in mind, reflecting the team’s commitment to their welfare. Rubber coverings, protecting the metal bars, ensure a quiet and stress-free environment for the animals.

“They deserve to be looked after, they deserve every bit of comfort. So, they have air conditioning, they have water, and on the very rare occasion that cows have had to stay overnight in the past, we would bed them, feed them, and also milk them in the morning to make sure they’re comfortable. We have a duty of care right up until their final moments.”

Their manager, Dave Bradley, praising their empathy, adds, “I have never known two people actually care so much about an animal that’s going to be put to sleep, and to have so much empathy as well.”

While the job is undoubtedly challenging, both emotionally and physically, Charlie and John express a sense of duty and pride in their work. “When you put an animal down, it’s a big responsibility; if it takes an hour to put one animal down, so be it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; you make sure it’s settled and do it right.”

While Charlie and John explain that their job isn’t the type of work they talk to their friends about at the pub, the two explain that it has its good sides too.

“The produce from farmers that goes through here is sold locally, you’ll find it in the supermarkets, the farms, and places around the Island, including many restaurants. The good side of this job, if there is a good side, is the finished product. We do a good day’s work to make good local produce.”

Philip Le Maistre, Chairman of the Jersey Milk Marketing Board, said: “The farming industry is extremely grateful for the work that the abattoir team do and the diligent manner in which they do it. Food security is becoming more and more important to us as an Island community and as an industry, we are extremely proud to be able to produce top quality products for local consumers. Charlie, John, and all their team are an important link into the local food chain.”

Although often being relied upon even on weekends, beyond the abattoir and ABP, Charlie enjoys playing golf, while John enjoys spending time in his caravan in France with his family.

Despite the challenging nature of their roles, these two remarkable individuals bring a unique blend of dedication, compassion, and professionalism to a job that often goes unnoticed.

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