Pig farmers say CO2 shortages could trigger first mass cull for 20 years

  • Farmers are facing a crisis as the CO2 shortage continues, ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills reports

Pig farmers warn they are “a couple of weeks away” from the first mass cull of livestock since the Foot and Mouth outbreak if carbon dioxide supplies aren’t restored. The National Pig Association (NPA) says abattoirs will start to run out of CO2, which is used to stun pigs before slaughter, from Friday and the throughput of animals will be cut. The NPA estimates that labour shortages in abattoirs since the beginning August has already caused a backlog of 95,000 surplus pigs on farms.

“We are stuffed to the gunnels full of pigs, on all our farms. There isn’t any space left,” says Zoe Davies, chief executive, National Pig Association. “If this CO2 shortage isn’t resolved very quickly we will be a couple of weeks away from being forced to cull perfectly healthy animals on farm and thrown the carcasses in the bin. "Not only is this hugely distressing for the farmers who have cared for these animals and reared them, it is also completely wasteful and completely financially ruinous for those individuals.”

National Pig Association Chief Executive Zoe Davies describes how a cull would impact farmers

Richard Lister, a farmer near York, says he has 2,000 more pigs than he was expecting to have because abattoirs cut the number of animals they slaughter. He showed us one herd that he is accommodating in a cattle shed. He continues to feed them but their commercial value is plummeting. Last week he made the decision to shut one of his four farms. “I’m losing money on all of these pigs, a good number have gone over the weight I’m allowed to sell at,” Lister told ITV News. “It’s a crisis for pig farmers. If your business is losing money and you are having to lay people off. When you lie in bed at night and you can’t sleep, it’s a crisis”. Almost two thirds of the carbon dioxide that the UK consumes is produced by two fertiliser factories, in Cheshire and Teesside. The owner, CF Industries, temporarily closed both factories last Wednesday because a surge in market price of natural gas had made them loss-making. Tonight the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, met the chief executive of the company to try to find a way of restarting CO2 production.