An industry boss has warned there is a growing backlog of pigs to be slaughtered and they could soon be dumped in skips rather than turned into sausages and bacon
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Pigs will be shot and dumped in skips rather than turned into sausages and bacon because of a shortage of slaughtermen, an industry boss warned today.
Staffing vacancies have triggered a backlog of animals stuck on farms unable to be transported to abattoirs.
National Pig Association chairman Rob Mutimer feared the UK was heading into an “acute welfare disaster very quickly” with a “mass cull of animals” looming.
“The problem in the industry has got very considerably worse over the last three weeks,” he told the BBC.
“We are within a couple of weeks of actually having to consider a mass cull of animals in this country.”
He said pig farms of all sizes were running out of space to keep their animals, “which is a real worry coming into winter”.
Asked what a cull would involve, he warned: “It involves either shooting pigs on farm, or taking them to an abattoir, killing the animals, and actually disposing (of) them in the skip at the other end of the chain.
“So these animals won’t go into the food chain. They will either be rendered, or if not, sent for incineration. So it’s an absolute travesty.”
Mr Mutimer said his pigs usually topped the scales at 115kg when they go to slaughter, but were now swelling to 140kg.
“The pens and the sheds and everything just weren’t designed for animals of this size and we’re really heading into an acute welfare disaster very quickly,” he said.
The UK is facing a perfect storm of staffing shortages in key supply chains, with critics blaming changes to the labour market after Covid – and Brexit, which has barred EU migrants getting so-called ‘unskilled’ work in the UK.
It comes amid fears a shortage of butchers could impact supplies of food like pigs in blankets over Christmas.
Ministers are now considering plans to ease visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers, according to the Times.
A spokesman for the Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was aware of labour shortages and the Government is “continuing to work closely” with the pig industry.
He said: “We understand the importance of seasonal labour and we are aware of the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and labour shortages, and Defra has been working closely with the pig and processing sectors during this time.
“We are keeping the market under close review and continuing to work closely with the sector to explore options to address the pressures industry is currently facing.”
Fears were also raised of a Christmas turkey shortage.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said labour shortages needed to be tackled to guarantee festive birds.
”Provided we can get sufficient HGV capacity and bring in the seasonal labour we need for sectors like turkeys, then yes, we will get the food for the supermarkets for Christmas,” he told BBC1’s Question Time.
Hailing 5,000 short-term visas to tackle a truck driver shortage, he said: “The two weeks running up to Christmas there is typically a 50% increase in demand for fresh produce, and fresh meats and supermarkets won’t order food that they think would be perishable.
“And so making sure that we’ve got that additional driver capacity for that short term… will make a difference.
“Bringing in the additional five and a half thousand seasonal workers, specifically to work on the turkey sector, again which is very condensed into about four weeks, yes, that will make a difference.”
It came as a government minister said shortages at petrol filling stations may persist for another “week or so”.
It came after petrol garage managers accused the government of “gaslighting” by claiming the problem was receding, despite long queues still mounting outside.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said there was still strong demand for fuel in some parts of the country and that Boris Johnson will have to review the situation if it deteriorates further.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We are still seeing strong demand in parts of the country around fuel, albeit that there is no problem of supply into the country. The distribution mechanism is trying to respond to this unprecedented demand.
“My latest briefing is that the situation is stabilising, that we are seeing more forecourts with a greater supply of fuel and hopefully that, as demand and supply come better into balance over the next few days – week or so – that we will see a return to normality.
“I think if things started to deteriorate further, obviously the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy, whose responsibility this is, will have to review the situation.
“What we need to see is a stabilisation and improvement over the next few days. Obviously there only so many tankers that can be used to get this fuel around.
“They are trying their best to get around as fast as possible. There is co-ordination now across the country looking at where there are pockets of supply problems and demand strength and trying to bring the two into balance.”