Thank you for writing to me about the pig industry.
After receiving similar emails from constituents about this issue, I recently wrote to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for a response. I have copied the contents of their letter below that I hope you will find of interest and sufficiently explains the Government’s decision making.
16 November 2021
Thank you for your email on behalf of your constituent about the pig industry. I am replying as the Minister responsible for this policy area.
The Government is very aware of the challenges that the pig industry has faced in recent months, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of the Chinese export market for some processors, and a shortage of skilled butchers impacting the capacity of processors to kill and process pigs. We are also very conscious of the impact the situation is having on individual pig farmers. Defra has been working closely with the pig producers and the processing sector during this time.
The Government has announced a package of measures to support the pig industry through these extraordinary circumstances.
Up to 800 pig butchers will be able to enter the UK to work for 6 months from November 2021. This temporary adjustment is in addition to foreign butchers already being eligible to apply to come to the UK through the Skilled Worker Route as part of the points-based immigration system. This route is open to all foreign nationals who wish to come to the UK for the purpose of working in a skilled job they have been offered.
The Government will also fund a private storage aid scheme which will enable meat processors to store slaughtered pigs for 3-6 months so that they can be preserved safely and processed at a later date. Further details of the scheme will be announced shortly.
In England and Scotland, the two meat levy bodies have announced a pork levy holiday during November 2021. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) took the decision in response to the continued build-up of pigs on farms, falling prices and high production costs.
Defra will continue to work closely with the sector to mitigate the immediate risks of culling.
In the longer term, Defra is working closely with the pig industry to support their efforts in the recruitment and retention of domestic workers for the processing sector.
I understand your constituent’s concerns over the on-farm culling of pigs and piglets. It is the responsibility of the registered keeper or owner to ensure the health and welfare of the animals in their care and to apply and adjust contingency plans, in response to a changing situation. These contingency plans should include provision to cull animals on farm if necessary. This is covered in the statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs, which encourages high standards of husbandry, and farmers are required by law to be familiar with and have access to it.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need further information.
VICTORIA PRENTIS MP
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking