Ministers step in to save Christmas with turnaround on foreign butchers to prevent mass slaughter of pigs
Boris takes steps to save Christmas blankets: Ministers expected to reverse and confirm visas for 1,000 foreign butchers after farmers warn more than 100,000 animals are being destroyed due to staff shortages
- Temporary visa for foreign butchers marks a major turnaround – comes less than 14 days after Boris Johnson ruled out easing immigration rules
- A cull of about 4,500 pigs began yesterday as ministers plan for 1,000 skilled workers to arrive before Christmas
- Shortage of butchers means around 100,000 pigs will be destroyed in the coming days
Hundreds of butchers overseas will be allowed into Britain to alleviate Britain’s Christmas meat crisis.
Ministers are expected to turn around and create visas for foreign slaughterers ahead of the holidays as mass slaughter of pigs gets underway.
The Boris Johnson administration had tried to downplay the impact of the waste of up to 100,000 pigs, which are thrown away because they cannot be professionally slaughtered for sale.
It previously opposed calls for foreign workers to make up for a shortage of skilled British staff.
But multiple Whitehall sources told the Daily Mail that ministers have given in to increasing pressure from industry and are finalizing plans to allow around 1,000 skilled workers to relieve UK slaughterhouses.
Farmers warn that more than 100,000 pigs will be destroyed in the coming days due to a shortage of butchers to process their meat.
The seriousness of the situation was underlined yesterday when a cull of about 4,500 pigs began.
dr. Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said farmers are distraught.
“You can imagine how hard this is for the farmers involved… Some have to use knackermen because they just can’t bear to have to do it or ask their staff to do it,” she said.
The seriousness of the situation was underlined yesterday when a cull of around 4,500 pigs began (stock image)
The prime minister infuriated the agricultural sector earlier this month by brushing aside the crisis, saying the “great hecatomb (sacrifice) of pigs” may not happen.
Johnson said the industry needs to improve wages and conditions to attract skilled workers already in Britain.
However, last night it appeared that the visa rules are being relaxed, as was already the case for poultry workers.
One option being considered is for less stringent English language rules, which industry leaders say will make it impossible to recruit butchers from abroad.
In the brutal culling of pigs, a so-called captive bolt gun is used, which shoots a retractable bolt through the head of the animal.
It is highly unusual to kill animals in this way on farms, let alone hundreds at once, and it has led to fears for the mental health and well-being of the teams involved.
Duncan Berkshire, a veterinarian involved in an expert steering committee that works with pig farmers, said the grim process began yesterday at three farms, each containing about 1,500 adult pigs.
He said the farmers involved are reluctant to go public, given the circumstances of the culling and fears they could be targeted by activists.
He described the situation as the ‘absolute last resort’ and added: ‘British farmers take pride in producing food – they don’t want to produce food that ends up in the bin.
Mr Berkshire said: ‘It is disturbing for all concerned. These are big pigs and they need to be contained and you need people who are trained to do it right.
“Well-being is important and we don’t want to suffer to the point of death.
“My concern is the mental impact this will have on both the producers and their vets.”
Farms haven’t seen anything like this since the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001, when animals were killed to prevent the spread of the disease.
Mr Berkshire said: ‘This is being done purely because something has gone wrong with the food chain.’
It has been suggested that the adult pig farm cull could include as many as 120,000 animals. The tipping point for a much larger cull will be at the end of this month.
Emma Slawinski, of the RSPCA, said: ‘I’ve heard people say, ‘What difference does it make where they get killed? They’re going to die anyway.
‘But culling on the farm will be traumatic for many animals and people. Slaughterhouses are specially designed to kill animals.’
She added: “None of this meat will end up in the food chain, which is incredibly wasteful and disrespectful.”
There are also reports that many thousands of chickens are being slaughtered on farms because processing plants do not have the staff to handle them.
What are the rules for slaughtering livestock at home for farmers?
Can you slaughter your own livestock for food?
You can have your own livestock slaughtered on your farm or property if it is eaten by you and your immediate family who live there.
This is known as ‘home slaughter’. Home slaughter does not take place in a recognized slaughterhouse.
But you must adhere to the legal requirements laid down in England and Wales livestock guide’s house slaughter.
It is illegal to resell meat from slaughtered animals.
What are the rules for culling livestock?
Farmers are allowed to humanely slaughter livestock at home to protect their welfare.
It is illegal to sell meat that has not been slaughtered and that is not marked with a health mark in an approved slaughterhouse.
There are two laws regarding the killing of animals outside a licensed slaughterhouse.
These are the Protection of Animals Act 2006 and EC Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing, implemented in the UK by The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing Regulations.
How can the animal be killed?
Two methods can be used for on-farm slaughter; free bullet weapons (rifles, shotguns, and humane killers) or stun with captured bolt followed by bleeding.
Following a change in firearms legislation in 1998, the bolt is no longer classified as a firearm and thus no firearms certificate is required.
Firearms may be suitable weapons, but a valid firearms certificate is required stating the type for which you intend to use it.
According to Defra’s code of conduct for pig welfare, the farm must have a health and welfare plan in place to say who will kill the animals, as well as an emergency plan if that person is not there.
It says that killing a farm animal must be humanely done by a method that renders them unconscious to death.
The Human Slaughter Association says firearms are often “the fastest and most effective methods of humanely killing livestock.”
The barrel of the gun should be close to the animal’s head – 25 cm – and it should fire a few bullets or bullets to kill the animal instantly.
If a pig has to be killed in an emergency, any method of killing is allowed, as long as the animal is spared all avoidable pain, distress and suffering and is killed as soon as possible.
But a trained person such as a vet should check that there is no sign of life.
After the death or killing of a pig, the carcass must be disposed of quickly and the death must be registered.