Thousands of pigs are set to be killed and disposed of in the coming days because there aren’t enough workers to process the meat.
The pig farming industry is facing a staffing crisis that means animals which were due to be butchered for food will now be culled en masse because they can’t be processed.
Around 4,500 animals are set to be slaughtered this week but the total could spiral in the coming weeks.
Earlier this month, industry leaders warned as many as 120,000 pigs may need to be disposed of if the situation doesn’t improve.
Boris Johnson has attracted the ire of the industry after suggesting the animals would have become ‘bacon sandwiches’ anyway.
The government has resisted calls to issue temporary visas to alleviate staff shortages after it announced similar schemes for lorry drivers and poultry processing workers.
Ministers are pursuing a strategy of restricting UK businesses’ access to foreign labour in an attempt to drive up domestic employment and wages.
But pig farmers say the situation is now critical and mass culls are on the horizon.
Minette Batters, president of National Farmer’s Union, told the Daily Mail: ‘This is not shroud waving. This is a very, very challenging situation for pig farmers.
‘We are potentially looking at the end of the size of the pig farming structure we have in this country unless we sort it.’
A shortage of butchers means pig farms are filling up with animals which should already be in the food supply chain and which farmers can’t afford to feed.
The backlog means the weight of pigs which are being butchered is higher than average, which also adds to farmers’ costs.
Earlier this week, pig vet Duncan Berkshire described the prime minister’s remarks as ‘enormously disappointing’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Unfortunately those discussions are around the horrific case where we are looking at not only when, but also how, we will have to enact a cull of healthy animals which would then just go for incineration.
‘We are already at a few hundred at the moment. But if we don’t get movement soon on the backlog of pigs that is present on farms at the moment, we are going to have to enact some of these more drastic actions.’
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