Farmers are facing a crisis as the CO2 shortage continues, ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills reports
Farmers could be forced to cull "perfectly healthy pigs" should the UK's carbon dioxide shortage continue, a national trade body has warned.
The National Pig Association (NPA), which represents the UK's industry, told ITV News gas supply issues are causing meat production lines to stop and thousands of pigs to become backed up on farms.
Mass killings could take place if the shortage of gas lasts for another two weeks, farmers have said.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies added: "If this CO2 shortage isn't resolved very quickly, we will be a couple of weeks away from being forced to cull perfectly healthy pigs on farms and throw the carcasses in the bin".
The NPA said CO2 is used to stun animals before slaughter and if farmers cannot stun and kill them in an abattoir, they will have to cull them on farms. The association estimates some abattoirs will run out of CO2 by Friday and 95,000 pigs are already backed-up on farms due to labour shortages.
The government held crisis talks on Monday with industry leaders over gas shortages. The issue has been blamed on a number of factors, including a cold winter which left stocks depleted, high demand for liquefied natural gas from Asia and a reduction in supplies from Russia.
Pig farmers said if CO2 supplies aren’t restored, in a couple of weeks the UK could experience the first mass welfare cull of livestock since the foot-and-mouth outbreak 20 years ago.
The NPA said a widespread cull would be "distressing" and "financially ruinous".
Zoe Davies describes how a cull would impact farmers
"I cannot stress enough how important it is that government resolves this issue as soon as possible,” Zoe Davies said.
On Monday, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng described warnings about the gas crisis as "alarmist" and insisted he did "not expect supply emergencies to occur this winter", after trade association Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) said prices had rocketed 250% since January - with a 70% rise since August alone. The top Tory, updating MPs on crisis talks he held with the industry earlier on Monday, said: "There is absolutely no question of the lights going out."
Mr Kwarteng said the UK's domestic gas supply, along with imports from trusted partner Norway, means there is no question of supply being at risk. However, four firms have already folded over the crippling prices and some analysts believe a further 40 could fall by the end of winter, a situation which would pose huge problems in the UK.