Pig farmers have protested outside the Conservative Party conference, arguing a lack of skilled butchers could lead to the “emotional and financial disaster” of tens of thousands of UK pigs being killed for waste.
Farmers have warned that a shortage of butchers could see up to 120,000 animals slaughtered on farms and then incinerated because they cannot go to the abattoir and they have nowhere left to house them.
Pig farmers were protesting outside the Tory conference in Manchester on Monday morning, calling for a temporary visa scheme to bring more butchers into the UK.
They held up placards saying: “No butchers. No bacon. No British pig industry.”
Pig vet Duncan Berkshire, who was taking part in the pig farmers’ protest, told the PA news agency: “We are here to ask the Government to give us some short-term Covid recovery visas of 12 to 18 months, which would allow that bottleneck to be unleashed and for us to not end up having to kill pigs on farm, which would be an absolute travesty when we want to get good, high welfare, quality-assured pork to UK consumers.”
Vicky Scott, a pig farmer based in East Yorkshire, said the protesting pig farmers had come from all across the country.
She told PA: “There is a huge crisis going on in UK pig farms at the moment.”
Ms Scott said: “For about the last 11 weeks we have been reduced in our contracted pigs going in to slaughter by 25%, so there is an estimated 150,000 extra pigs on farm. And obviously that’s growing every day.”
She added: “Right now the blame has got to be with the Government because they don’t appear to understand the problem, and the problem is massive and really real. And we’re being forced into making the decision as to whether to kill pigs on farm. Obviously if we have to kill pigs on farm they can’t go into the food chain. So it’s just a huge waste. It’s immoral really that we are going to be forced into this position.”
Ms Scott said farmers do not raise pigs “to waste a lot of resources and energy and time to just end up killing our pigs and put them into landfill. It’s disgusting. And it is that bad. And they don’t seem to understand. And all we need is some more butchers into the processing plants.”
She said: “None of this is the farmers’ doing. We pay our staff really, really well. We’ve got good staff. And they do a really good job. It’s not our fault that there are not enough butchers in the processing plant. And we are the ones that are going to get left with this emotional and financial disaster.”
Ms Scott added: “The retailers are just filling their shelves with foreign stuff. It’s criminal that we are going to be forced to make that decision and kill healthy animals for waste.”
The great hecatomb of pigs that you describe has not yet taken place, let’s see what happens
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Despite recent media reporting on the issue, the Prime Minister appeared to be unaware of the problem when he was questioned on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
Boris Johnson’s initial response was to tell the presenter: “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”.
Mr Johnson added: “The great hecatomb of pigs that you describe has not yet taken place, let’s see what happens.”