The British meat industry is warning that hundreds of thousands of pigs may have to be culled within weeks unless the government issues more visas to allow slaughterers into the country.
The coronavirus crisis and Britain’s immigration policy following Brexit have created an acute staff shortage in the meat processing industry, including a lack of butchers and slaughterers, according to Belga News Agency.
The government announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers and 5,500 workers in the poultry sector, which should eliminate the staff shortages there.
More schemes in other sectors with shortages are reportedly still pending, and the UK believes that companies should invest in staff and improve wages and working conditions.
Lizzie Wilson, policy officer at the National Pig Association (NPA), said the shortage of butchers meant that the capacity of processing plants had fallen by a quarter.
“There are currently about 120,000 pigs on the farm that should have already been slaughtered, processed and eaten,” Wilson said.
If the government does not relax the migration rules, pigs on those farms will have to be culled.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said a cull would be a major step forward.