Farming News - Farming Industry highlights inappropriateness of PM’s mass cull suggestion, for any livestock sector

Farming Industry highlights inappropriateness of PM’s mass cull suggestion, for any livestock sector

05 Oct 2021
Frontdesk / Livestock

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is both shocked and dismayed at the comments made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show when questioned on the problems being faced by the British pig farming sector and the prospect of a mass cull of healthy animals.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “I was left reeling after listening to the Prime Minister respond to questioning over the prospect of a mass pig cull due to labour shortages in the processing and transport sectors. To continually stress that ‘programme listeners needed to understand livestock were slaughtered anyway’ was crass and insensitive and ignored the problems that UK pig farmers are enduring.
“His comments completely ignored the fact that in the main, livestock farmers in Britain are compassionate and respectful and are focussed on producing food in a responsible manner. Any farmer faced with a mass cull of animals on farm is going to make sure the job is done humanely but an event such as this will undoubtedly compromise the mental welfare of the farmer and staff involved and this must be recognised. To raise animals and then have them disposed of as ‘rubbish’ when supermarket shelves are bare or filled with imported products is morally incomprehensible”.
NSA is thankful that the sheep sector isn’t facing the worst of the supply chain problems being experienced elsewhere, although inefficiencies are evident due to a lack of labour in abattoirs. However the Association is highly concerned that British agriculture is being forced into a transition without any clarity over the future vision for food, farming, and trade,  and an absence of any strategy to make that transition.
Mr Stocker continues: “The Future Farming programme in England paints a reasonable picture as to the direction Government wants farming and land management to move in, and we have similar policy statements in our devolved nations. But no one will come out and say what this translates to in terms of future farming or supply chain and retail approaches. 
“Alongside this, we have consultation after consultation again giving an indication of the direction of travel, but there is no certainty and no discussion around supporting the industry to make change. We are in real danger of having an agricultural transition but no one knowing what we are transitioning to – and if this happens, we will have wasted huge amounts of money and time when most of us accept the global challenges that we all face. We need a clear and practical vision for where we are going, and a strategy to deliver it, and this needs to cut across all Government departments in a consistent way”.  

The Country landowners Association has government to step in and support the agricultural sector due to the current labour supply chain shortages, especially the pig sector which is experiencing a serious processing backlog.

CLA Deputy President, Mark Tufnell said:

“The current labour shortage is having an unprecedented impact on supply chains.

“In the pig sector in particular, the labour supply issues at pork processing plants are of serious concern. This backlog causes animal welfare issues and is economically crippling and extremely distressing for both the farmers and the pigs. We urge government to act swiftly on the calls for a Covid visa recovery scheme to help ease the current labour shortages.

“We have seen the government rightly step in to support the poultry sector but it needs to act to help all agricultural sectors experiencing similar supply chain issues.

“The government has to protect and secure British food production at this crucial time. Longer term it should introduce measures that ensure there cannot be a repeat of the issues currently being experienced.”

NFU President Minette Batters described the current labour shortage situation within the find chain as ‘exceptionally serious’ with 43% vacancies in the processing sector, including a ‘massive shortfall’ of butchers, a 35% shortfall on seasonal farm workers and 11% on drivers.

“We have a got a real crisis situation building in the pig sector, whereby pigs are not coming through onto the marketplace as they are being held back on farm. This will be an animal welfare crisis if it is not resolved. 

“We have been looking at a welfare cull potentially of 150,000 pigs. This cannot happen – it is potentially a week/10 days away and it has to be resolved,” she said.

Following the PM's "car crash" appearance on the Andrew Marr Show, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies tweeted: "This is absolutely disgusting… I’ve never seen such wilful disregard and disrespect in my life. You should be ashamed  @BorisJohnson This is your mess. Time to fix it."