Groundswell of support inspires butcher to reinstate display

BACK IN PLACE: Richard Nicholson and John Sawyer from JBS Family Butchers thank people for their backing.
BACK IN PLACE: Richard Nicholson and John Sawyer from JBS Family Butchers thank people for their backing.

Walking through Sudbury’s Borehamgate precinct last week, it was obvious to all that something was missing.

Where once shoppers would stop and gaze up – some taking pictures on their phones – at the dead animals hung in the window of JBS Family Butchers, there was, instead, empty space.

The removal of the carcasses – featuring pigs, poultry and game – came after the Free Press received several letters of complaint. The shop’s owners were also sent an anonymous poison pen letter.

It prompted a national debate about whether the shop window was offensive or simply a prime example of a butcher’s showcasing its wares in a traditional manner.

On Friday, the story came full circle when owner John Sawyer, buoyed by widespread support, reinstated the display along with a sign thanking people for their backing.

“We had to put it back up because of everything that had happened since we took it down,” said Mr Sawyer.

“The reaction has been incredible and we never expected it. We know that the display is not everyone’s cup of tea but we are very pleased so many people have come out in support of it and us.”

The display had been a regular feature of the shop since it opened three years ago.

Yet it was only recently that opposition reared its head, with Ben Mowles, from Great Cornard, claiming that he and number of his friends avoided the shopping centre due to the “needless display of mutilated carcasses” at the butcher’s.

Others also came forward describing the window as “disgusting”.

But, out of more than 250 comments posted on our Facebook page, the vast majority were positive, while the debate also resulted in 2,000 people signing a petition calling for the display to be restored.

The Free Press also received letters from as far a field as Devon and Australia.

Alistair and Margaret Woodcraft, who live in Albany, said they both felt strongly in favour of the butcher’s.

“My wife and I have read about the complaints the window display in JBS brought forth and would like to add our support for JBS from Down Under,” the couple wrote.

“After circulating the article around our Australian friends here, they are also in full support without exception.”

Although the display, including a goose, ducks and pigeons has returned, the pigs’ heads and rabbits are absent.

Mr Sawyer said this compromise was brought about following a conversation with Mr Mowles, who visited the shop last week.

“Ben came to see me and it took a lot of bottle for him to do that,” said Mr Sawyer.

“I could see his point of view in terms of the pigs’ heads and some of the rabbits as they seemed to be the two things that offended people most.

“I want to try to keep everyone happy and get on with running the business.”

Daniel Cudmore, from Long Melford, who said his fiancée was almost reduced to tears by the display of continental giant rabbits, said the new approach was an improvement but would still upset some people.

“It shows he has listened and I appreciate that,” said the 29-year-old.

Oliver Ruse, from Ruse and Son butcher’s in Long Melford, which also has an abattoir on site, said he had no issue with the display but would not do anything similar outside his business.

“I think he is doing a good job and has identified his customer base and is serving them well,” said Mr Ruse.

“But I would be worried about upsetting people and would want to avoid that.

“It is better to make sure everyone is happy as much as you can.”