National Sheep Association criticises Prime Minister’s response to potential mass cull

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has criticised the comments made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show when questioned on the problems being faced by the British pig farming sector and the prospect of a mass cull of healthy animals.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker said he was ‘left reeling’ after listening to the Prime Minister respond to questioning over the prospect of a mass pig cull due to labour shortages in the processing and transport sectors.

“To continually stress that ‘programme listeners needed to understand livestock were slaughtered anyway’ was crass and insensitive and ignored the problems that UK pig farmers are enduring,” said Mr Stocker.

“His comments completely ignored the fact that in the main, livestock farmers in Britain are compassionate and respectful and are focussed on producing food in a responsible manner. Any farmer faced with a mass cull of animals on farm is going to make sure the job is done humanely but an event such as this will undoubtedly compromise the mental welfare of the farmer and staff involved and this must be recognised. To raise animals and then have them disposed of as ‘rubbish’ when supermarket shelves are bare or filled with imported products is morally incomprehensible”.

The NSA also said it is ‘highly concerned’ that British agriculture is being forced into a transition without any clarity over the future vision for food, farming, and trade, and an absence of any strategy to make that transition.

Mr Stocker added: “The Future Farming programme in England paints a reasonable picture as to the direction Government wants farming and land management to move in, and we have similar policy statements in our devolved nations. But no one will come out and say what this translates to in terms of future farming or supply chain and retail approaches.

“Alongside this, we have consultation after consultation again giving an indication of the direction of travel, but there is no certainty and no discussion around supporting the industry to make change. We are in real danger of having an agricultural transition but no one knowing what we are transitioning to – and if this happens, we will have wasted huge amounts of money and time when most of us accept the global challenges that we all face. We need a clear and practical vision for where we are going, and a strategy to deliver it, and this needs to cut across all Government departments in a consistent way”.

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