Advertisement
News

30,000 pigs culled since September due to supply chain issues and worker shortages

Thousands of healthy pigs have been culled since September thanks to shortages of labour and CO2, while Covid has delayed temporary worker visas.

Around 30,000 pigs have been culled on British farms since September due to supply chain and labour issues, the government has revealed.

In an answer to a parliamentary question from shadow minister Jim McMahon, government minister Victoria Prentis said on Tuesday that a large “backlog of pigs” has accumulated on farms due to a “unique combination of factors”.

This included “the Covid-19 pandemic, shortages of labour in the processing sector, interruption of CO2 supplies and disruptions to the export market,” she said. 

Mass culling of healthy pigs began last year when a shortage of abattoir workers and butchers meant that farmers were forced to kill pigs in order to make space on farms and ensure welfare standards could be maintained.

Many experts have pointed to changing immigration rules related to Brexit and workers choosing to return home following the UK’s exit from the EU as a driving force behind labour shortages in the industry.

CO2 shortages – required for the slaughtering process – have also contributed to the problems. 

Advertisement
Advertisement

Last November, it was estimated that the sector was down by around 15 to 20 per cent on the staff required. Pig prices have fallen dramatically, and some farms have been forced out of business as a result. 

Since then the crisis has continued, with the National Pig Association (NPA) estimating that numbers may be even higher than Prentis outlined, saying around 35,000 pigs have been culled since the beginning of the crisis in September. 

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

Prentis said Defra does not collect data on the number of pigs culled, meaning the numbers could actually be even higher than 35,000. 

In spite of repeated pleas from pig farmers for compensation, Prentis recently responded to a parliamentary question on the matter by saying that the government “does not provide financial support for the culling of animals”.

“Responsibility for animal welfare on the farm remains with the owner/keeper, who should have contingency plans in place to ensure the welfare of their animals,” she added.

Support The Big Issue

Give your local vendor a hand up and buy the magazine

Each of our vendors buy their copies of the mag for £1.50 each, selling them for £3 and keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor.

Last October the government attempted to increase staffing levels in the sector by offering seasonal visas to workers from abroad, but delays due to the Omicron variant of coronavirus mean that many are yet to arrive. 

More recently, it opened a Slaughter Incentive Payment Scheme (SIPS) which contributed to the cost of extra slaughter shifts at abattoirs. 

Farmers remain concerned that government measures won’t be enough to tackle the crisis, however, warning that further farms could be put out of business if more stringent measures aren’t taken.

Article continues below

Prentis said the government was tackling the issue with several different measures.

“We have provided a package of measures to help address the challenging circumstances that the pig sector has faced. These include temporary work visas for up to 800 pork butchers, and Private Storage Aid (PSA) and Slaughter Incentive Payment (SIP) schemes to facilitate an increase in the throughput of pigs through abattoirs.

“In addition, Defra continues to work with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and other government departments to expand existing markets and to open up new export markets for British pork,” she said.

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
'It's about making the invisible visible': A day at the UK's only festival for homeless people
Homelessness

'It's about making the invisible visible': A day at the UK's only festival for homeless people

Don't Pay UK says energy bills strike will not take place on October 1
Activism

Don't Pay UK says energy bills strike will not take place on October 1

'A groundbreaking initiative': Why employers are working with Big Issue Recruit
Big Issue Recruit

'A groundbreaking initiative': Why employers are working with Big Issue Recruit

Big Issue Recruit aims to get Britain working
Big Issue Recruit

Big Issue Recruit aims to get Britain working

Most Popular

Read All
How much will the Queen's funeral cost?
1.

How much will the Queen's funeral cost?

The internet's best reactions as Kwasi Kwarteng cuts taxes and lifts the cap on bankers' bonuses
2.

The internet's best reactions as Kwasi Kwarteng cuts taxes and lifts the cap on bankers' bonuses

From benefit claimants to bankers: Here’s what the mini-budget means for your pay packet
3.

From benefit claimants to bankers: Here’s what the mini-budget means for your pay packet

5 ways anti-homeless architecture is used to exclude people from public spaces
4.

5 ways anti-homeless architecture is used to exclude people from public spaces

To mark our new Arctic Monkeys exclusive interview, we’ve picked out some of our best band and musician interviews from the past, featuring Arctic Monkeys (2018), When Jarvis met Bowie, The Specials, Debbie Harry and more. Sign up to our mailing list to receive your free digital copy.