Farmers may be forced to incinerate nearly 100,000 pigs due to a post-Brexit shortage of butchers.
The profession was not included on a list of so-called ‘Shortage Occupations’, which allows foreigners to enter the UK more easily on a skilled worker visa.
Industry figures say slaughterhouses are already becoming starved of qualified workers, with a backlog of 85,000 pigs awaiting slaughter around the country.
Dr Zoe Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association, said the backlog is growing by 15,000 each week.
They will have to be killed and destroyed unless they can be butchered soon, as it becomes too costly to feed livestock past a certain age.
Dr Davies, who sits on an independent committee advising the government on migration policy, told the Mail on Sunday the Home Office had ignored advice from the body to include butchers on the Shortage Occupations list.
She added: ‘You have ballet dancers on it but not butchers. You couldn’t make it up.
A spokesperson for the British Meat Processors Association said it did not support a return to free movement but urged the government to ‘manage’ immigration policy to avoid a ‘catastrophe’.
A similar controversy has erupted over the omission of HGV drivers despite there being an estimate shortage of 100,000 workers in the field.
While boosting salaries, the shortage has led to supermarket shortages as well as delays to bin collections in local authorities across the country.
The shortage has disrupted a wide variety of industries, with furniture giant Ikea revealing on Sunday that it was struggling to supply around 1,000 product lines as a result.
Meanwhile, over a third of vacancies for crop growing jobs are currently going unfilled, according to a recent survey by the National Farmers Union.
A body representing Scottish farms said last week that staff shortages forced them to destroy 2.5 million crowns of broccoli and 1.5 million cauliflowers.
Butchers still count as skilled workers, meaning they can move to the UK if they are sponsored by an employer and earn more than £25,600.
Ministers are reportedly considering bringing forward a review of the Shortage Occupation list to deal with the lack of HGV drivers.
A spokesperson for the government said: ‘We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad.
‘The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through training, careers options and wage increases and to invest in increased automation technology.’
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