Sir; We were disappointed to see in your article Small abattoirs still threatened' (December 2, page 23) criticism of the Soil Association's stance on the pithing ban, due to come into force on January 1. Our call for a six month moratorium is based on information supplied by the Food Standards Agency. In its consultation document of October 31 it states: "The government accepted SEAC's advice and it remains the FSA's view that there is no current need on grounds of food safety to ban pithing in the UK." We are particularly concerned by the lack of time allowed for major structural changes that would be needed in affected plants to ensure the safety of abattoir workers, and the fact that many small plants simply do not have the physical space nor financial resources to make such alterations. Indeed, the government acknowledged the "insufficient lead-in time" during EU negotiations, but seemed unable to achieve a delay in implementation and subsequently failed to start a formal consultation with industry for four months. The Soil Association warmly welcomes the decision by government to change the system of charging for meat inspection to one based on a headage rate, as we have been pressing for this for a long time. But it is hardly surprising some smaller plants feel this is a hollow victory, if they are put out of business in just a few weeks' time. We estimate around 100 small and medium-sized abattoirs will be affected. Bob Kennard Abattoir campaign co-ordinator Soil Association {{LETTERS }}