UK pig industry warns butcher shortage could lead to mass cull | Supply chain crisis

The UK is on course for an “acute welfare disaster” as a shortage of butchers could lead to a mass cull of animals nationwide, according to the chairman of the National Pig Association.

Rob Mutimer said a mass cull may be needed in a matter of weeks as farmers are unable to get stock to be processed due to staff shortages in the supply chain.

“We are within a couple of weeks of having to consider a mass cull of animals in this country,” he said, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday.

“We think our backlog is in the region of 100,000 to 120,000 as we stand today. And it is growing by around 12,000 a week. This is happening on pig farms all over the country, they are backed up and running out of space to keep animals.”

One farmer said they were being told to expect further cutbacks next week in the number of animals able to be transported, as there are not enough workers at meat-processing plants to handle the loads.

“The problem in the industry has got considerably worse over the last three weeks,” said Mutimer. “[A cull] involves either shooting them on the farm or taking them to an abattoir and disposing of them in a skip. These animals won’t go into the food chain, they will either be rendered or sent for incineration. It is an absolute travesty.”

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He said farmers were keeping stock on their farms for longer even though they were over their ideal weight for slaughter – he gave the example that on his farm some pigs are now 25kg (55lb) over prime – but farmers are out of space and there is a welfare issue.

“Pens and sheds are not designed for animals of this size,” he said. “We are heading for an acute welfare disaster quickly.”

Earlier this month, meat industry representatives warned farmers may also have to begin humane pig culls because of a looming shortage of carbon dioxide to slaughter the backlog of animals destined for abattoirs.