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UK gas crisis could force farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of pigs

British farms could be forced into a mass pig cull as supplies of CO2 gas used to humanely kill the livestock run short as a side effect of the gas price hike crisis

Eighty per cent of pigs and poultry in the UK are slaughtered using CO2

Pigs could face a “dark day” of early slaughter as gas stocks used to humanely kill livestock run perilously low amid the unfolding gas price hike crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of pigs could be culled due to the crisis hitting the UK’s carbon dioxide supplies, Brit farmers reportedly say.

The global gas shortage is set to hit supermarket shelves within days, piling on top of the Brexit-caused lorry shortage headache..

CO2 is used in food packaging, as a method of stunning animals including pigs and poultry prior to slaughter, and to put the fizz in soft drinks and pump pints out of kegs.

But supplies of the natural gas are already running low as spiralling energy costs have led to the suspension of operations at fertiliser plants – which produce CO2 as a by-product – having a knock-on effect on the food industry.

A pig farmer in the south east of England, Kate, told Metro: “If abattoirs are unable to use CO2 for stunning they won’t slaughter many pigs at all, so that is going to add to this backlog on British farms.



Pigs in Staffordshire as the gas price crisis hits farms
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Image:

PA)




“We’re facing a really dark day on UK farms because if we get to a point that we have to euthanise pigs on farm simply because they can’t then get butchered, that would be devastating.”

Kate added that the farming industry was already struggling with short-staffing after an EU worker Brexit exodus.

She pleaded: “We’re asking government to do something, such as a Covid recovery visa or putting butchers on the shortage list of occupations because we simply don’t have the people at the moment to fill those spaces.”

Alongside warnings of livestock culls and gaps on supermarket shelves, industry leaders warn the UK could face widescale food waste as retailers are forced to discard otherwise perfectly good products.



Supermarket shelves are already running bare due to the Brexit lorry crisis
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Image:

Rowan Griffiths / Daily Mirror)




Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board head of environment and resource management Jon Foot warned that the crisis could affect next year’s crops as the price for natural gas results in major producers of fertilisers closing down their facilities.

The problems are unlikely to be resolved over the winter, as demand for energy in the winter months continues, and supplies of natural gas remain restricted, he added.

Mr Foot said: “This has impacted both the livestock sectors where a lack of carbon dioxide used to humanely stun the pigs before slaughter is in short supply and has caused the animals to back up on farm, and the closure of the fertiliser factories has caused the price of fertiliser to double in under a week.

“Many farmers have sufficient fertiliser in stock to establish their winter crops, but supplies are less certain for spring sown crops.”







Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he has spoken to Chancellor Rishi Sunak about the situation and held talks with fertiliser firm CF Industries which suspended operations at two UK sites because of the high cost of energy, leading to CO2 supply issues.

“Time is of the essence, and that’s why I spoke to the CEO, speaking to him twice in the last two days, and we’re hopeful that we can get something sorted today and get the production up and running in the next few days,” he told BBC’s Today.

In a sign that taxpayers’ money could be used, Mr Kwarteng added: “It may come at some cost, we’re still hammering out details, we’re still looking at a plan”.


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