‘Slaughtered stock’: what now happens to unwanted pigs in the UK? | Food industry


How are unwanted pigs killed?

Sick or injured animals on farms that cannot be transported to a slaughterhouse are usually killed by a renderer, the traditional name for the role.

There are very strict guidelines that control how animals are allowed to be shipped to the farm. The instructions, defined by the government, are known as standard operating procedures, designed to ensure that animals are free from any avoidable pain or distress, including when they are stunned or killed.

To kill on the farm, a captive bolt pistol is used to dispatch the animal instantly.

Pigs have a reputation for being heavy and loud and very difficult to control. This is part of the reason why farmers have been extremely reluctant to start killing pigs on farms.

What happens to the carcasses?

A small number of pig carcasses could be burned in an incinerator, if the farm had access to one. However, those involved in dealing with dead animals – called “dead animals” – don’t see this as likely, as incinerators require a lot of fuel to operate and can only process a few carcasses at a time.

The majority of pig carcasses are expected to be sent to UK rendering plants. There are six Category 1 factories – the ones that would deal with pig carcasses – in Britain.

The practice of rendering animal by-products dates back to ancient times, when animal fat was made into tallow, from which soap and candles were made.

Nowadays, the rendering process involves reducing the size of the carcasses, before they are cooked and the fats and proteins are separated, which allows them to be transformed into a product line.

Butcher and owner of a small slaughterhouse, John Mettrick, walks between pig carcasses inside a refrigerator on his premises in Glossop, Derbyshire, England. Photograph: Phil Noble / Reuters

What will cull pork be used for?

Animal by-products considered fit for human consumption are found in products such as pet food, animal feed, fish feed and chemicals.

However, the carcasses of all pigs slaughtered on the farm would not be inspected after slaughter, meaning they could not be assessed as fit for human consumption. Carcasses from the current slaughter are therefore likely to be used only for products such as biodiesel.

Is it legal to burn and bury carcasses instead?

It is illegal to bury or burn dead animals on farms, or to leave their carcasses out of the way for certain types of birds to eat. It is forbidden to bury or burn the bodies of dead animals due to the risk of the spread of disease through contamination of soil, groundwater or air pollution.

Dead animals must be collected by an approved transporter and landfilled at a number of locations, including a rendering yard, incinerator or rendering plant.

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