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An industry destroyed

October 6, 2021 12:33 PM

fs28 (Photo by Kenneth Schipper Vera on Unsplash)Suffolk, indeed East Anglia are major pig producing areas

That's what makes the report in the Financial Times that the first 600 have been slaughtered because a shortage of skilled butchers has seen pig numbers grow such that they risk overcrowding and damage to animal welfare. So far the animals have been shot and removed for rendering into fat and protein meal by knackers, who normally deal with sick and injured animals or those that die of natural causes. The industry has forecast that over 100000 face the same fate in the coming days

Leaving aside the waste of good food and the emotional stress of killing animals for no purpose, the cull will also be devastating for farmers livelihoods. It is not surprising that the EADT is already reporting one Suffolk farmer Simon Watchorn, from Earsham Park Farm near Bungay, announcing he is getting out of the business ( see Bungay pig farmer to quit over butcher shortage | Eastern Daily Press (edp24.co.uk))

What we find so hard to understand is how the government can be so disinterested and happy to leave the animals and farmers to their fate

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the issue when asked by Andrew Marr, the Prime Minister said: "I hate to break it to you but I am afraid our food processing industry does involve the killing of a lot of animals. I think your viewers need to understand that.". He seemed to completely miss the fact these animals were being killed not for food but for incineration as a direct result of a deliberate policy to let it happen

The justification is the recently announced wheeze which is that these shortages and disruption are a necessary part of adjusting to a " high wage, high productivity " economy. You may recall that until recently the government view was that shortages were related to covid not a fall-out from Brexit. When it became clear that many labour shortages were the result of EU residents going home and new workers barred by immigration rules, the story suddenly changed. Up pooped the notion that shortages were a deliberate policy to push up wages ( apparently with no other major changes to policy this will see the new world created without any danger of higher costs being passed on in higher prices

Maybe the way will avoid price increases is to import cheap EU pork . The Independent yesterday reported volumes were dramatically increasing ( See Cheap EU pork flooding market as cull of unwanted pigs begins at UK farms (msn.com)). This perfect storm for farmers could see many go bust meaning we will become more dependent on imports. Still if the industry shrinks the government will claim success as there will no longer be a shortage of butchers!

We never voted for the Brexit deal and think restricting immigration as the government has would lead to problems. Research done after the referendum suggested pig farmers were the least enthusiastic for staying in the EU with only 34% in favour ( see table 3 in Understanding UK farmers' Brexit voting decision: A behavioural approach - ScienceDirect) . You may think therefore we might have less sympathy for farmers who now reap what they have sown. However that's not the case. No-one was promised the sort of hard brexit we now have. No-one was promised shortages , disruption and possibly going bust. We weren't told that industries would be allowed to shrink and die

That has less to do with Brexit and more to do with the way the Conservatives have chosen to implement it