PIG farmers in Northumberland will be among those forced to “slaughter their own animals” to dispose of them if the situation facing the industry does not change, the chairman of the National Pig Association has warned.

Rob Mutimer has called on the Government to “act now” to prevent the needless destruction of thousands of animals, as farms grapple with a lack of space and feed due to supply chain issues.

The sector has been hit by the news that abattoirs are running out of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is used in the humane slaughter of animals.

The problem has been caused by the shutting down of two large fertiliser plants in the UK – which produce CO2 as a by-product – with the owners citing the hike in gas prices as their reason for closing.

It has added to months of ongoing difficulties over a shortage of skilled workers, many of whom have gone back to Eastern Europe, which means abattoirs have already had to reduce the number of animals they kill by 25 per cent. As a result, farmers are running out of room to house their livestock.

Mr Mutimer told the PA news agency: “If the situation doesn’t change, it’s going to spiral completely out of control. And the only endgame there is we as farmers are going to end up slaughtering our livestock – not for the food chain but to put them into rendering, to dispose of carcasses like what happened in foot and mouth. And that’s a terrible situation to be in.”

In a meeting with industry leaders on Monday, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs was said to be “actively looking at the situation.”