Joe Giddens via PA Wire / PA Images
The UK government has finally tried to avoid mass seizures pigwith the permission of trained foreign butchers to come to work on temporary visas.
Farmers across Britain say the combination of Brexit and Covid-19 has caused an exodus of Eastern European workers and caused an acute shortage of butchers and slaughterhouses-leaving pigs for backups in barns and fields across the country.
It was warned that up to 150,000 pigs could be destroyed because the lack of manpower in meat processing led to a backlog of animals ready for slaughter.
While farmed animals are killed for food, the shooting would be different because the pigs would be sent to waste and would not enter the food chain like bacon, ham or other products – a point that Boris Johnson missed while rejecting worries.
On Thursday, Environment Secretary George Eustice announced a turnaround and said the UK would offer six-month emergency visas for 800 foreign butchers to avoid mass shootings as part of a package to help the industry.
What is the problem?
The crisis in the pig industry is triggered by similar forces as those that caused long queues at gas stations and warnings about empty shelves for Christmas.
Following Brexit, the government said it was encouraging the sector to make agricultural employment more attractive to domestic workers in the UK, and acknowledged that many negative headlines were part of the teething process.
Other sectors had support. Last month, ministers announced that 5,500 temporary visas would be issued to poultry workers and 5,000 to truck drivers in an attempt to prevent shortages ahead of Christmas.
But pig breeders say they have been ignored.
Due to the constant shortage of workers in food production – a chain that brings animals from fields to forks – pig farms are struggling to find space for additional animals, leaving them with nothing but to kill them in the midst of overcrowding.
Earlier this month, the National Pig Association said at least 600 healthy pigs had already been destroyed due to labor shortages in slaughterhouses across the country. The mass shooting was “the next stage in the process,” it said.
What did the farmers say?
Pig breeders are angry and frustrated.
They protested last week ahead of a Conservative Party conference, arguing that the shortage could lead to an “emotional and financial disaster” for tens of thousands of British pigs killed because of the waste. They held posters that read: “There are no butchers. No bacon. There is no British pig industry. “
In an emotional interview with BBC News, farmer Kate Morgan called on the prime minister to “have the courage to stand up and talk to us” as the fighters demanded the issuance of short-term visas to foreign workers.
He fears he will have to kill pigs on his East Yorkshire farm before the end of the month, which would be a “crime” because people are “starving” in the UK.
“We are in the worst position British agriculture has ever found itself in,” Morgan said as she was on the verge of tears.
“Emotionally, physically, financially, we are in the worst position that UK agriculture has ever found itself in.”
Pig breeder Kate Morgan says “our government is willing to let us throw healthy proteins in the bucket” due to lack of slaughterhouse workershttps: //t.co/IFGS1O5xoTpic.twitter.com/9JETsGXAnz
– BBC policy (@BBCPolitics) October 8, 2021
What did Boris Johnson say?
Johnson responded to concerns that the animals would have to be killed that there were no slaughterhouse workers to slaughter them for the market responding that everyone was destined to die anyway.
Despite media reports on the issue, the prime minister seemed unaware of the problem when questioned on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.
His first response was to tell the host, “I hate what I have to tell you, but I’m afraid our food processing industry involves killing a lot of animals. I think your viewers need to understand that. ”
When told, the whole problem was that they could not be sold for food and would have to be dumped on farms, he accused the manager of “trying to obscure”.
Pig breeder included @SkyNews Describing the disaster that you have to kill thousands of healthy pigs, Boris Johnson says, “Don’t joke about it. Don’t go to the Andrew Marr Show and light it up. Just fix it.”
– Bill Esterson (@Bill_Esterson) October 14, 2021
Johnson later compared the excretion of pigs to turning into bacon.
“I was on the BBC the other day with a guy who complained that pigs would be slaughtered, that 100,000 pigs would die,” Johnson told Tom Newton Dunn to Times Radio.
“I was thinking about the unfortunate duty to point out to him that this is happening to pigs in this country.”
He then asked Newton Dunn if he had ever eaten a bacon sandwich, adding, “Those pigs, when you ate them, were not alive. I have to break it for you. ”
What did the government say?
On Thursday, ministers finally responded.
Eustice unveils plan to bring in about 800 butchers, denying Brexit is a major labor-limiting problem supply chains.
Up to 800 pork butchers will be able to apply for visas from the existing allocation in the Pilot Scheme of seasonal workers until December 31. Visas will allow them to travel and work in the UK for up to six months.
The government said that the adjustment is temporary and that, in addition to foreign butchers, it already meets the conditions from December 2020 to apply for coming to the UK through the existing skilled workers.
It was also said it would fund a private storage program in England that would allow meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for three to six months so they could be processed later.
He also said that the restrictions for drivers from the EU who transport goods will be limited so that they can travel as much as they want in a period of two weeks.
“What we will do is allow butchers in slaughterhouses and meat processors to deal pigs, so you can temporarily enter the program on the basis of seasonal workers for up to six months, ”Eustice told reporters.
“It will help us resolve backlogs pigwhich we currently have on farms to give these meat processors the opportunity to slaughter more pigshe said.
He said the “complex picture” was the result of a series of “market disruptions” and “perhaps some overproduction” as well as labor shortages.
He added: “The pig in the industry, as in many parts of the food industry, staff losses have been recorded as many EU citizens they relied on left during the pandemic – have nothing to do with Brexit. ”
“They had the right to stay, but many of them decided to return to be with their families in the difficult times of the pandemic.”