Hundreds of healthy pigs culled due to abattoir worker shortage

5 October 2021, 17:38 | Updated: 5 October 2021, 17:39

Hundreds of pigs have been culled on British farms
Hundreds of pigs have been culled on British farms. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The culling of healthy pigs has begun on British farms, with at least 600 slaughtered due to a labour shortage in abattoirs.

Chief executive of the National Pig Association (NPA), Zoe Davies, warned many more could follow.

Farmers have said up to 120,000 pigs could be culled as the abattoir labour shortage has led to a backlog of animals ready for slaughter.

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The backlog means farms are struggling to find space for the extra pigs - leaving them with no choice but to cull them in the face of overcrowding concerns.

Ms Davies said at least 600 pigs have already been culled by "a handful of farms", with others "on the edge".

"There is a huge difference in terms of where farms are at", she said.

"Some farms are on the edge."

Ms Davies said the cull was "hugely difficult" for the pig farmers, and some have even resorted to hiring outside help instead of asking their staff to do it.

"Some are having to use knackermen as they just can't bear having to do it or ask their staff to do it", she said.

She said pig farmers were "angry, upset, all the range of emotions that you can possibly imagine".

She added: "There is no light at the end of the tunnel."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted at the weekend "the great hecatomb of pigs... has not yet taken place".

He also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: "I hate to break it to you but I am afraid our food processing industry does involve the killing of a lot of animals. I think your viewers need to understand that."

When it was pointed out to him the whole problem was that they could not be sold for food and they would have to be disposed of on the farms, he accused the presenter of "trying to obfuscate".

Ms Davies said farmers care about how their livestock are used.

"Farmers care about the animals they have been rearing", she said.

"These animals were going to feed the nation. It should not be allowed to happen."

She called on the Government to increase the number of worker visas for abattoirs, and to lower the English language requirement.

"At the moment it's the same level as doctors or vets", she said.