A confidential, 24-hour helpline has been set up by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) to support workers affected by the current crisis in the British pig industry.

The helpline will supplement the charity’s current system of support - its anonymous online platform - and is available for immediate use.

The confidential, 24-hour phone number is: 0800 188 4444.

Its establishment comes after RABI’s Big Farming Survey found that 35% of English and Welsh farmers are either possibly or probably depressed, with the farming sector with the poorest mental health being specialized pigs.

Furthermore, the specialist pigs sector also reported the highest amount of stress-causing factors; the average amount cited is 5.6 and the pigs sector reported 6.4.

This information comes at a time where the British pig industry is facing multiple challenges, primarily the backlog of pigs awaiting slaughter on-farm and at factories, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the temporary suspension of approval to export to China for some pork establishments.

“Evidence from the Big Farming Survey confirmed high levels of poor mental health exist across agriculture,” said Suzy Deeley, RABI corporate partnership manager.

Data from the survey also evidenced that depression rates are particularly high in the specialist pigs’ sector, with 47% likely to be probably or possibly depressed.

“The survey highlighted these concerns even before the current crisis. Therefore, developing bespoke, in-person counselling support to supplement existing services already available in some areas of the county, and ensuring this is available on-demand consistently across England and Wales, has been a focus for the charity over recent months.

“The worsening situation and potential of on-farm culls has led to this in-person support being made available immediately. All those working in the pig sector can access this, along with any of our services.”

Commenting on the helpline, National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Dr. Zoe Davies said:

These are the hardest times pig producers have faced for over twenty years and it is putting incredible emotional strain on them.

“The additional support from RABI has come at a time when our industry really needs it. It is so important that we look after ourselves and others so we would encourage anyone feeling overwhelmed to reach out for the support available.”

More support for the pig sector

Also in response to the extra pressure facing the pig industry in recent months, two meat levy bodies - Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) – have announced a pork levy holiday for the month of November this year.

The levy holiday will amount to just under £14 million.

Chairman of the AHDB Pork Board, Mike Sheldon said: “These challenges, in particular a shortage of skilled workers, come on top of pressure on margins largely due to rising feed costs.

“These issues are extremely concerning and therefore require industry-wide action to prevent the situation deteriorating into an animal welfare issue.

“As part of its wider approach, the AHDB Pork Board has agreed to a one-month levy holiday to help ease the burden of the financial pressures faced by levy-payers.”