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Farmer is forced to slaughter hundreds of healthy piglets because of butcher and abattoir shortages

A farmer has been forced to slaughter hundreds of piglets due to staff shortages at the local abattoir leaving too many stacked up on his farm.

The Yorkshire stockman, who has not been named, took the drastic measure because slaughterhouses were not killing them fast enough.

A friend said he had been ‘destroyed’ by having to ‘kill perfectly healthy, viable piglets’ due to the backlog.

It comes as the National Pig Association warned the UK is heading into an ‘acute welfare disaster very quickly’ with the country facing a ‘mass cull of animals’.

Chairman Rob Mutimer said the country is just weeks away from farmers having to shoot pigs when they run out of space.

Meanwhile the National Farmers’ Union warned 150,000 animals are under threat of being culled in the next ten days.

A shortage of butchers means farmers are having to ‘throw pigs in a skip’ because they can’t be slaughtered and carved.

The meat crisis is compounding woes caused by a lack of HGV drivers and fuel as well as labour shortages that will lead to a ‘distinct lack of choice’ this Christmas.

The Yorkshire stockman, who has not been named, took the drastic measure because they were not killing the animals fast enough (file photo)

The Yorkshire farmer’s friend told the BBC: ‘He had to kill perfectly healthy, viable piglets. It’s desperate.

‘I’ve been producing for 26 years, and never faced the prospect of having to butcher pigs on my own farm before.’

Mr Mutimer from the National Pig Association echoed his woe, saying the UK is heading into an ‘acute welfare disaster very quickly’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The problem in the industry has got very considerably worse over the last three weeks.

‘We are within a couple of weeks of actually having to consider a mass cull of animals in this country.’

He said pig farms of all sizes are running out of space to keep their animals, ‘which is a real worry coming into winter’.

Asked what a culling situation would involve, he said: ‘It involves either shooting pigs on farm, or taking them to an abattoir, killing the animals, and actually disposing them in the skip at the other end of the chain.

‘So these animals won’t go into the food chain. They will either be rendered, or if not, sent for incineration. So it’s an absolute travesty.’

Mr Mutimer said his pigs are usually around 115kg when they go to slaughter, but are now getting up to around 140kg.

He added: ‘The pens and the sheds and everything just weren’t designed for animals of this size and we’re really heading into an acute welfare disaster very quickly.’

Britons were today warned that a 'nightmare' Christmas is looming as the growing list of items set to be in short-supply come December 25 stretched to include pigs in blankets, hams and party foods. Turkeys, drinks, toys and furniture will also be hard to get

Britons were today warned that a ‘nightmare’ Christmas is looming as the growing list of items set to be in short-supply come December 25 stretched to include pigs in blankets, hams and party foods. Turkeys, drinks, toys and furniture will also be hard to get

The shortage of labour in abattoirs is being blamed on the coronavirus pandemic and some point the finger at Brexit.

Nick Allen, from the British Meat Processors Association, said the workforce in large abattoirs would normally be 10-15 per cent above average this time of year.

But he said it is 15 per cent down, meaning pigs are mounting up at farms and some farmers were ‘quietly starting to cull’.

They are forced into this because oversized pigs will not fit into supermarket packets.

Mr Allen said: ‘The main barrier is labour, with the change in the immigration policy. We are struggling to get butchers in particular, and it limits how fast you can run the plant.

‘We were offering higher wages, but with the job market at the moment, it’s not worked. We do need access to some non-UK labour.’

The British Meat Processors Association said 1,000 EU butchers is still 14,000 short of the 15,000 the country needs.

This means businesses are focussing on keeping supermarkets stocked with simple cuts of meat such as bacon, steaks and chops.

A BMPA spokesman added: ‘We really should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and so far we haven’t, so there’ll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets. Anything that is labour-intensive work could see shortages.’

Hire low-level offenders to drive lorries amid fuel crisis, says Raab 

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has suggested offenders who have been given community sentences could be used to address the country’s lack of HGV drivers amid continuing concerns about fuel shortages.

Mr Raab, who was made Justice Secretary in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent ministerial reshuffle, has dismissed Labour’s call for 100,000 migrant visas to be issued to provide sufficient drivers.

The former Foreign Secretary said the move would leave the country reliant in the long term on labour coming from abroad, and instead suggested the gap could be filled in another way.

‘We’ve been getting prisoners and offenders to do volunteering and unpaid work,’ Mr Raab told The Spectator, in comments carried by The Times. ‘Why not if there are shortages encourage them to do paid work where there’s a benefit for the economy, benefit for society?

‘If you give people skin in the game, give them something to lose, if you give them some hope, they’re much less likely to re-offend.’ 

Shoppers were told this week a raft of items – from turkey to beer – are under threat this Christmas amid the supply chain crisis.

British families may also struggle to find toys and sofas or get them delivered in time for the day.

Ministers have already they cannot guarantee that there will not be shortages this Christmas with serious problems emerging in the meat sector.

The cabinet is now said to be considering easing visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers to avert the crisis.

But The Times claims Priti Patel is against it and concerned they are being pushed by British industry to move back towards pre-Brexit freedom of movement.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are closely monitoring labour supply and working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points. Similar challenges are being faced by other countries around the world.

‘We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.

‘Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

‘The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options wage increases and investment.’

The UK economy has been disrupted by several factors that have been bubbling away for months, including labour shortages, new immigration rules affecting HGV drivers and the lingering effects of the pandemic.

A spokesman for the Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was aware of labour shortages.

He said: ‘We understand the importance of seasonal labour and we are aware of the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months because of the Covid-19 pandemic and labour shortages, and Defra has been working closely with the pig and processing sectors during this time.

‘We are keeping the market under close review and continuing to work closely with the sector to explore options to address the pressures industry is currently facing.’