Pigs in blankets shortage - how Brexit is threatening to ruin Christmas lunch

14 December 2018

Following my blog about labour shortages in the agricultural industry, the government has now announced that it will be launching a “seasonal workers” visa pilot scheme.  The aim of this visa is to enable fruit and vegetable farmers to employ non-EU workers for seasonal work, for up to 6 months at a time.  But has the Government overlooked a crucial issue by limiting this new visa to horticulture workers? 

It would seem from this article that the answer is yes.  According to The Guardian, 10,000 slaughterhouse positions are currently unfilled across the UK.  One explanation for the shortage is that abattoir workers suffer severe physical and psychological effects from the job. Another explanation is that 69% of slaughterhouse workers are EU citizens, and that Brexit has deterred EU workers from coming to the UK.  After all, and as mentioned in my previous blog, why should Brits expect migrants to do all the gruelling jobs, whilst at the same time expressing concerns about immigration from the EU, and voting to leave?

As an animal welfare advocate, I should be delighted by the news that no-one wants to kill animals anymore.  But the depressing, underlying message here is that the UK is no longer an attractive place for economic migrants.  Before the full effects of Brexit take hold, the government will need to consider how to plug this gap in the farming industry.  In a statement about the new seasonal workers visa, the Home Secretary emphasised the vital role that farmers play on the UK economy.  So surely it would make sense to create a new visa to cover all agricultural workers, and not simply fruit and vegetable pickers?  Unless the government intends for the UK to become a nation of fruit and vegetable eaters (which I personally wouldn’t mind)!  

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