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Pigs: Animal Welfare

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL7289, tabled on 23 March 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact on pigs and their welfare of the shortage of (1) abattoir workers, and (2) vets, resulting in delays to their slaughter.

Answered on

7 April 2022

We recognise the significant and ongoing challenges that the pig sector has faced over the last year. This is due to the pandemic and the loss of the Chinese export market to certain processing plants; global labour shortages; and disruption to supplies of carbon dioxide, which is used as a stunning method for pigs. In addition, in 2021, the UK pig herd was the largest for 20 years. Together these factors have resulted in a backlog of pigs on farm.

This supply chain disruption has not impacted animal welfare of pigs in slaughterhouses. Our concern is that increased numbers of animals on farms can create animal welfare issues if there is insufficient space or housing.

The Government has been working closely with the pig industry to put in place measures to alleviate the situation, including temporary visas for pork butchers, and Private Storage Aid and Slaughter Incentive Payment Schemes to incentivise processors to increase their throughput of pigs in slaughterhouses. These interventions are, together, making a significant contribution to reducing the backlog of pigs on farms. The Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, has chaired two roundtables – on 10 February and 3 March - with pig industry representatives from across the UK to discuss the challenges that the sector has been facing. Minister Prentis has also met with representatives of the agricultural banking sector to discuss the current situation in the pig sector. The banks confirmed that they are working closely with impacted pig farmers during this exceptionally challenging period and remain keen to be supportive.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is responsible for the provision of official veterinarians to monitor and enforce animal welfare regulations in slaughterhouses. The FSA has maintained veterinary supervision in all slaughterhouses, which includes providing veterinary resource for additional slaughter shifts.