Britain's pig industry says it faces collapse after an exodus of east European workers led to a shortage of butchers and a backlog in slaughtering more than 170,000 pigs.
National Pig Association (NPA) Chairman, Rob Mutimer, and National Farmers Union (NFU) President, Minette Batters, announced this week that emergency visa measures designed to soften the impact of Brexit and COVID-19 were not working.
"The situation is utterly dire on pig farms, both in terms of the backlog, and financially," the groups said in a joint letter to Britain's environment minister, George Eustice.
In October 2021, the government offered six-month emergency visas to 800 foreign butchers - but the NPA said it was aware of only 105 that arrived, or are due, using the seasonal scheme.
The trade bodies warned that farms were losing money on each pig and at least 30,000 sows had been lost over the last six months, equating to around 10 per cent of the English herd.
"We are already seeing a significant drop in breeding herd numbers, and we fear that if nothing changes, we could see a mass exodus from this industry over the next 12 months. Once we lose that production base, we won't get it back."
The trade bodies say tens of thousands of healthy pigs have been culled on farms by producers who have run out of space on their farms. The are calling on the government to convene an emergency summit with the supply chain to find solutions.
In the first week of 2022, some farmers reported that as few as 50 per cent of contracted pigs were taken by processors. Costs associated with the backlog, record pig feed costs and falling prices, meant farmers have been losing about £25 (€30) per pig for nearly a year, they say.
They are also calling on the government to encourage retailers to run marketing campaigns to increase British pork sales, thereby encouraging processors to clear the backlog.
A government spokesperson said it expected progress on reducing the backlog of pigs on farms in the coming months.
Veganism is on the rise
The slaughter backlog within the British pig industry is almost certainly down to butcher shortages as a result of Brexit. However - there could be another reason too: the amount of people giving up meat altogether.
2021 was a big year for veganism in the UK and globally. And judging by the promising response to Veganuary this year, this is likely to continue into 2022 and beyond.
A record 500,000 people took the 2021 Veganuary pledge to only eat plant-based food this January, according to The Guardian.
So why are so many people going plant-based? There are three main reasons, according to the Vegan Society.
For the environment
Eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” to reduce our environmental impact on earth, a 2018 study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from our diets could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent.
For the animals
Many opt to go vegan to help stop animal cruelty. By refusing to pay for animal products, you reduce the demand for them, which means fewer animals are bred to suffer and die on farms and in slaughterhouses.
Having emotional attachments with animals is a big part of this reason, as vegans believe that all sentient creatures have a right to life and freedom.
For your health
Numerous health experts agree that going plant-based is one of the healthiest ways to live. Vegan diets provide protection against diseases like heart disease, cancer, and strokes.
Both the British Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognise that veganism is suitable for every age and stage of life.