Search icon


03rd Oct 2021

Boris Johnson appears not to know that culled animals don’t get sold as meat

Charlie Herbert

Boris Johnson appears not to know how the food processing industry works

There are warnings that 120,000 pigs could be culled due to labour shortages.

Boris Johnson has downplayed concerns that the British farming industry could experience the largest cull in its history, in an interview in which he appeared not to know how the food processing industry works.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, the Prime Minister was asked about the warning from the British Meat Processing Association that around 120,000 pigs may have to be culled within weeks.

Farms across the country are faced with the possibility of having to cull thousands of pigs because of a huge labour shortages of abattoir workers and butchers. This has led to pigs staying on farms longer than they usually would and becoming too big and heavy for slaughter and packaging.

On Friday, Rob Mutimer, the chair of the National Pig Association said that Britain was facing an “acute welfare disaster” and that the industry is “within a couple of weeks of having to consider a mass cull” in the region of 100,000 to 120,000 animals.

But when confronted with the issue by Marr on Sunday morning, Johnson dismissed the concerns, claiming that this was just part of the farming industry.

He said: “I hate to break it to you Andrew but our food processing industry does involve killing a lot of animals.”

When the host pointed out that culled animals are incinerated and go to waste as opposed to being butchered and sold for food, the PM responded: “That is the reality. Your viewers need to understand that, that is just what happens.

“What you’re talking again about is an issue to do with a shortage of another particular type of workforce.

“Actually, what I think needs to happen is again there is a question about the types of jobs that are being done, the pay that is being offered, the levels of automation, the levels of investment.”

Marr reminded Johnson yet again that the pigs would not be sold for food and would instead be incinerated, but the PM simply accused him of “trying to obfuscate” the point, causing Marr to have to explain the food processing and farming industry to him.

When the penny seemed to finally drop for the Prime Minister, his only reply was: “Let’s see what happens.”

The government is considering easing visa restrictions for up to 1,000 foreign butchers, in a similar scheme to that implemented for HGV drivers amid the fuel crisis.

But the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said last week that the 1,000 EU butchers is still 14,000 short of the 15,000 the country needs.

The Mail reports that businesses are now focussing on keeping supermarkets stocked with basic cuts of meat such as bacon and steaks, meaning that Christmas classics such as pigs in blankets and ham could be in short supply.

A BMPA spokesperson said: “We really should have been producing Christmas food from about June or July onwards this year and so far we haven’t, so there’ll be shortages of party foods and things like pigs in blankets. Anything that is labour-intensive work could see shortages.”

Johnson was speaking ahead of the first day of the Conservative Party conference which is taking place in Manchester over the next four days.

Related links: