Pig farmer facing 'criminal' choice to cull animals while 'starving people remain in the world'

·4-min read

A pig farmer has said it is "criminal" she may have to cull her animals while "there are people starving in the world".

Kate Morgan said that unless the government acts to solve a nationwide shortage of butchers and abattoir workers she may have to kill the pigs on her East Yorkshire farm at the end of the month.

Ms Morgan told the PA news agency: "This is just criminal.

"There are people starving in this world.

"Even in this country there are people who can't feed their families, yet Boris [Johnson] is quite happy to let us waste good healthy food - healthy protein he's prepared to put in the bin.

"We're desperate for Boris to listen to us."

Hundreds of healthy pigs have already been culled as a result of overcrowding on farms as meat-processing plants lack the skilled labour needed to keep up.

The National Pig Association (NPA) said at least 600 swine had been killed - with fears that the bottleneck in the meat processing industry could see as many as 150,000 affected.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies told Sky News she had spoken to "grown men in tears" at the thought of having to carry out the cull - which she has been warning about for weeks.

"These are animals that they have reared, fed, looked after, cared for," she said.

"To actually then kill something that's perfectly healthy to then go in the bin - it's just criminal."

The crisis has been blamed on an exodus of eastern European workers, many of whom returned to their home countries after COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased but have not returned.

That has meant the abattoirs where they worked are operating at as much as 20% below capacity - unable to take as many pigs as normal - leaving farms overcrowded.

With her sister Vicky, Ms Morgan is the second generation of her family to farm pigs near Driffield.

The farm has 1,700 breeding sows and they sell about 90,000 pigs a year.

But she said the number of pigs leaving for processing has dropped by 25% in the last 11 weeks.

Ms Morgan said the 12-month cycle of pig breeding means they cannot "just turn off the tap" and she already has animals in buildings they would not normally be put in.

Asked how long it will be before they have to consider culling, she said: "I spent quite a lot of time looking at it yesterday, which was quite emotional, but I think, by the end of October we will be really struggling to the point it's inevitable.

"We're speaking to other producers all the time and everyone's in the same boat.

"This has never happened in any country before. No country has ever thrown away good wholesome food. It's just absolutely horrendous.

"Financially, we're seriously hit at the moment. We're losing money every day, but that's not even our biggest worry.

"Our biggest worry is the emotional part of it - the welfare of the animals."

On Monday, the boss of the British Meat Processors Association told Sky News farmers were facing a "massive problem" and could be forced to cull up to 100,000 pigs.

Boris Johnson drew criticism for appearing to make light of the situation by pointing out the pigs would be killed and made into bacon anyway.

Asked if he should have done more to prevent the labour shortage, he told Times Radio: "This country has a fantastic logistics and supply industry. I was on the BBC the other day with a guy who was complaining that the pigs were going to be slaughtered, that 100,000 pigs were going to die.

"And I pondered the unhappy duty of pointing out to him that that is what happens to pigs in this country."

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Ms Morgan said his comments were an "absolute insult" and a "kick in the teeth".

Farmers Kate and Vicky Moore added that they did not believe that Boris Johnson understands the difference between culling and slaughtering for the food chain.

Speaking to Sky News they said the prime minister was a "complete buffoon" with a "complete disregard for farming".

They added: "We are producing food to feed the nation… we worked all the way through COVID, no subsidies, no furlough for us.

"We kept on going day in and day out to do what we do to produce food to fill the supermarket shelves."

A government spokesman said: "We understand the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, labour shortages, accessing CO2 supplies, and reduction in exports to the Chinese market.

"We are keeping the market situation under close review and working closely with the sector during this time."

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