A leading UK meat industry body says up to 120,000 pigs could be killed due to ongoing worker shortages. And, farmers are concerned that increasing livestock numbers are leading to a backlog that could put animal welfare in disarray.
UK pig producers ‘struggling’
The National Pig Association (NPA) revealed farmers up and down the country are in crisis as the labor shortages wreak havoc down the supply chain.
‘It is bleak’ one farmer told the organization, in a statement last month. And, things are only getting worse: with now thousands of animals at risk of culling.
It’s due to a lack of abattoir workers and butchers, The Guardian reports. Moreover, the NPA’s chair said the industry is heading towards an ‘acute welfare disaster’ in the coming weeks.
Rob Mutimer reportedly said: “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.”
The NPA dubs it the ‘biggest crisis’ to hit the pig farming sector since the 1990s.
Across the world, worker shortages are prevalent. The recruitment ‘crisis’ is largely due to the wake of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Aside from affecting the food production and hospitality industry as a whole, the meat sector has been hit particularly badly. And, in the UK, it’s exasperated by Brexit as many EU workers left the country.
As a result, key meat industry figures are pushing for financial support.
The NPA said there’s been ‘little interest’ from the UK government to install an animal welfare initiative following the shortages.
What does it mean for farmed animals?
While some industry figures, such as Rob Mutimer, warn the shortages are putting farmed pigs at risk of death, it’s also prompting farm closures.
In the same statement, the NPA said producers with 22,000 sows had ‘left the industry’. Others, it claims, are planning on reducing numbers – though it’s not clear how.
Chief executive Zoe Davis pleaded: “If things don’t change soon, we will see a serious contraction of our industry that we may never recover from.”