October 5, 2021

Massive culling of pigs likely as UK abattoirs get struck by labour shortage


UK farmers have warned that up to 120,000 pigs face being culled due to a lack of abattoir workers, as acute labour shortages across supply chains continue to wreak havoc on the United Kingdom's economy.


Rob Mutimer, the chair of the National Pig Association (NPA), said Britain was facing an "acute welfare disaster" within a matter of weeks, with farmers forced to kill their livestock because of an acute shortage of butchers and slaughterers.


"We are within a couple of weeks of having to consider a mass cull of animals in this country," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on October 1.


"We think our backlog is in the region of 100,000 to 120,000 as we stand today. And it is growing by around 12,000 a week. This is happening on pig farms all over the country; they are backed up and running out of space to keep animals."


Mutimer added: "The problem in the industry has got considerably worse over the last three weeks. [A cull] involves either shooting them on the farm or taking them to an abattoir and disposing of them in a skip. These animals won't go into the food chain, they will either be rendered or sent for incineration. It is an absolute travesty."


He said that a combination of post-Brexit immigration rules and an exodus of foreign workers amid constantly shifting pandemic restrictions on travel had left the industry at crisis point.


NPA urged retailers not to turn to cheaper pork from EU suppliers to stave off a shortage on the shelves.


Mutimer said farmers were keeping stock on their farms for longer even though they were over their ideal weight for slaughter.


Earlier this month, meat industry representatives warned that farmers might have to begin culling pigs due to a looming shortage of carbon dioxide to stun the backlog of animals destined for abattoirs.


The meat industry is just one of many sectors of the UK economy struggling with labour shortages linked to Brexit and the pandemic, with a shortage of delivery workers hitting supply chains.


- The Guardian