OXFORDSHIRE pig farmers have been left feeling 'broken and helpless' by labour shortages which mean they may have to cull their livestock.

And one farmer is warning the situation could lead to suicides as the industry has been left so devastated by the ordeal. 

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, local farmer Tom said: “For us to kill these pigs and basically to throw them in a bin is horrific."

Nationwide, farmers have warned that up to 120,000 pigs could be culled as staff shortages have led to a backlog of animals ready for slaughter. 

This hold up means farmers in Oxfordshire are struggling to house the extra pigs, raising animal welfare issues and leaving them with no choice but to cull them due to overcrowding. 

Oxford Mail:

Alongside this, the backlog also means farmers are unable to sell the animals for meat, as the pigs will have grown too large to be slaughtered. 

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Tom, a local pig farmer, said: “I am completely broken. I have never felt this helpless and there is no end in sight.

“Unless something changes I am going to have to euthanise my animals.”

He added that the situation will leave many farmers ‘broken’ and may even lead to ‘the loss of human life’.

The issues facing the pig industry have been compounded by both Brexit and the Covid-19, according to farmers, which have seen many European workers return to their home countries, leaving gaps in the sector.

Oxford Mail:

Tom called the situation an ‘absolute perfect storm’ for the pig industry.

He said: "British people really do not want to do the job even though wages have increased.

“If the Government cannot recruit from British labour then they need to be able to recruit from somewhere else.”

This sentiment is echoed by Jane Bowler, director of Dews Meadow Farm in Wantage, which has been keeping pigs for 42 years.

Mrs Bowler, 69, said: “It is a problem because so many people do not want to do it. It takes a certain type of person to slaughter animals.”

The issue has been further exacerbated by comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson who downplayed the issue on The Andrew Marr show earlier this week. He was accused of being 'out of touch' for his comments. 

Oxford Mail:

Mr Johnson told the interviewer: “I hate to break it to you, but I am afraid our food processing industry does involve the killing of a lot of animals. I think your viewers need to understand that.”

Read more: 'Out of touch' prime minister accused of ignoring plight of pig farmers 

Tom said he felt that the Government does not seem to understand the animals are grown for a purpose, rather than to needlessly killed.

He said: “For us to kill these pigs and basically to throw them in a bin is horrific."

Mrs Bowler agreed. She said: “I feel it is very concerning because we do not raise animals just to kill them, it is the hardest part of farming.”

Mrs Bowler explained that for the first time in her farm’s history they are having to book pigs in with the abattoir 12 weeks in advanced to be slaughtered, due to the lack of staff.

The delays to the slaughtering and butchering process means the issues look set to continue for many months to come.

Tom added: “This problem will not go away for at least nine months and more and more animals are going to be culled.”

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