Farmers protest outside Tory Conference amid labour crisis

Pig producers came together at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester this morning (Photo: Save British Bacon)
Pig producers came together at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester this morning (Photo: Save British Bacon)

Pig producers have staged a protest outside the Conservative Party Conference after Boris Johnson played down the prospect of a mass cull of pigs due to a shortage of plant staff.

A group of farmers gathered outside the Manchester conference on Monday morning (4 October) to raise awareness of the industry's ongoing struggles with finding an available workforce.

Producers are now seeing a backlog of well over 120,000 pigs on farms, with many quickly running out of space and many more at or close to the limit.

The labour crisis at processing plants has resulted in a slowing down of the throughput of British pigs through plants, which is adding to the already severe backlog of pigs on farms.

It comes as the industry reacted with concern and anger after the prime minister downplayed the issue on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, pointing out that pigs would be slaughtered regardless.

When Mr Marr pointed out the absurdity of the remark - pigs being slaughtered and incinerated versus going into the food chain - Mr Johnson added: “The great hecatomb of pigs you describe on farm has not taken place. Let’s see what happens."

The prime minister went on to blame the pig industry for the staff shortages in abattoirs for not paying enough or creating attractive working conditions.

While the industry is calling for temporary visas, Mr Johnson spoke of not wanting to return to 'uncontrolled immigration'.

As farmers protested outside the Conservative Party Conference this morning, NFU President Minette Batters told BBC Radio 4 Today programme that they were 'angry, distraught and extremely upset'.

"They have been calling for this, we have been calling for an emergency scheme, a Covid recovery scheme, to be put in place to avoid this very scenario," she added.

"I am desperate to get the facts of this story to the Prime Minister and that is what the pig farmers outside want to get across, the story of this disaster."

It comes the National Pig Association's (NPA) recently sent an open letter to UK retailers and supermarket chains urging them to buy British pork.

The NPA's letter said the industry needed more help to resolve the crisis, and for UK retailers not to instead turn to importing cheaper meat from the EU.