Thousands of pigs have been slaughtered on farms in England as part of a welfare slaughter due to a chronic staff shortage, the National Pig Association (NPA) has confirmed.
Rob Mutimer, president of the NPA and East Anglia-based pig farmer, told the NFU board meeting on Tuesday (October 12) that vets across the country reported “extreme welfare issues” in the pig farms in the past three weeks.
“I am really sad to say that as of this week we are now seeing a huge number of pigs, not by the hundreds, but by the thousands, slaughtered on farms and taken away for rendering,” he said. .
Mid-sized hog producers report significant accumulations of hogs on farms. A backlog of 120,000 to 150,000 pigs on these farms should have been cleared for slaughter, says the NPA.
Mr Mutimer said the NPA had warned the UK government of the likelihood of a mass slaughter of pigs on farms every two weeks or every week for the past four months. But he had refused to acknowledge their concerns.
Photos sent to deputies
“They now have the photos of the overcrowded pens, and by the end of this week they will have the photos in their pig bins loaded and taken away for rendering,” he added.
Mr Mutimer accused Defra secretary George Eustice of “covering up” an extreme labor shortage in meat processing factories and a loss of pork exports to China.
The NPA’s “demand” on the government mirrors that of the NFU, he said. “We need qualified and well-paid staff in our slaughterhouses. “
But visa rules that require foreign butchers to speak English mean slaughterhouses have not been able to bring good numbers into the country.
The NPA estimates that the industry has lost around 25% of the Eastern European workforce it had in slaughterhouses since July. Despite pay rates of up to £ 23 / hour for skilled butchers, the industry is struggling to attract enough slaughterhouse workers.
Staff shortages on pig farms, including ranchers drawn to better-paying jobs, also contributed to the problems.
“The government needs to get rid of this language barrier for butchers and Covid recovery visas for the pork sector. Otherwise we will see a lot more pigs slaughtered on farms, ”warned Mutimer.
A government spokesperson said: “We understand the challenges the pork industry has faced in recent months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, labor shortages, access to supplies in carbon dioxide and reduced exports to the Chinese market.
“We are closely monitoring the market situation and working closely with the industry during this period.”
Meanwhile, a pig farmer spoke of his anger at the NFU meeting after receiving a “heavy hand” letter from Red Tractor in September. The letter warned that despite the swine crisis, if overstocking is detected by auditors during farm visits, non-compliance with the Red Tractor Pigs Scheme will still be raised.