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Humane Slaughter Association – Statement on the Prospect of a Pig Cull in the UK

14 October 2021

The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) is concerned by reports that a cull of pigs in the UK may be necessary because of problems in the abattoir sector which have limited its capacity to slaughter pigs. An on-farm cull poses significant potential challenges to animal welfare, and it is important that the government works with the industry to minimise these risks. The HSA’s extensive expertise in emergency killing is available to all stakeholders and we stand ready to assist with practical advice.

Key Points

  • Ideally the government will provide all necessary help to get pigs into the food chain and avoid the need for on-farm culling, which would be both a potential welfare challenge and a waste of good quality food.
  • There is a significant risk that pigs may suffer on farm whilst waiting to be culled or taken to slaughter (due to overcrowding, reductions in rations to slow growth etc.).
  • If pigs must be culled as a last resort, this should be carefully planned to ensure they are killed in the most humane way possible. As this may involve large numbers of pigs, it is essential that planning takes place as soon as possible and that plans and resources remain in place should culls be necessary in future.
  • It is possible to cull pigs humanely on farm using a range of methods (e.g. electrical stunning followed by cardiac arrest; captive bolt stunning followed by pithing; shooting with a free bullet (e.g. shotgun at close range for adult pigs) or lethal injection (this can only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon). Use of any of these methods will necessitate careful planning and finding appropriately-licensed and experienced personnel to carry out a cull. This may be a challenge, given the current lack of abattoir personnel and the time taken to process slaughter-licence applications.
  • The HSA has extensive online advice on the emergency killing of pigs during disease outbreaks, most of which is also applicable to this situation:

a.       On-farm Killing of Livestock for Disease Control Purposes (many principles also apply to culls for other reasons)
https://www.hsa.org.uk/on-farm-killing-of-livestock-for-disease-control-purposes--introduction/introduction-9

b.       Emergency Slaughter
https://www.hsa.org.uk/emergency-slaughter-introduction/introduction-5

c.       Information on humanely killing pigs using firearms
https://www.hsa.org.uk/humane-killing-of-livestock-using-firearms-positioning/pigs-2

We are also happy to provide advice and guidance to the livestock sector and government - please contact info@hsa.org.uk or call 01582 831919 for further information.

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