WIDESPREAD SLAUGHTERHOUSE closures in the US have led to millions of animals being culled on farm.

Meat producers are reporting that the food supply chain is breaking, with over 20 slaughterhouse closures. Farmers have been faced with issues of overcrowding on farms and no choice but to euthanise excess animals.

A nationwide advisory issued by the US Government said state veterinarians and government officials would be ready to assist with culls' or what they are calling the 'depopulation' of pigs, chickens and cattle, if alternatives could not be found.

On April, 28, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to keep slaughterhouses open, declaring them 'critical infrastructure' which would, he said, help solve liability problems for meat companies. However, this move sparked concerns that the President was more concerned over the profits of agribusiness than at providing people with food and he faced criticism that worker safety at the plants did not appear to be a priority of the administration.

Tyson Foods – one of America’s largest meat producers – has closed or reduced production at several facilities throughout the US, including in Iowa, Texas and Indiana. Other facilities, including a Smithfield Foods pork plant in South Dakota, and a JBS beef plant in Wisconsin, have also announced temporary shutdowns.

Tyson Foods chairman, John Tyson, warned in a blog post that: “In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation. Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking.”

At least two million animals have already reportedly been culled on farm, and that number is expected to rise. The American Veterinary Medical Association has approved methods for slaughtering poultry including suffocation by covering them with foam, or by shutting off the ventilation into the barns.

An AVMA spokesperson said the guidelines list several methods of depopulation that may be considered in emergency situations. “Each decision to depopulate animals is unique, and the myriad factors surrounding that decision and those animals need to be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate method in that situation, with as much consideration given to the welfare of the animals as practicable.”

Reports from Iowa, the biggest pig producing state in the US, warn that producers could be forced to kill 700,000 pigs a week due to slaughterhouse restrictions.

In a statement from the president of the National Pork Producers Council, Howard Roth, he said that the combination of restaurant and slaughterhouse suspensions meant pigs 'are backing up on farms with nowhere to go, leaving farmers with tragic choices to make [because] hog farmers have nowhere to move their hogs.'

A spokesperson for the NPPC said: “On the topic of euthanasia, our farmers are focused on doing the right thing for their animals and employees while raising food for consumers. Euthanasia is always a devastating last resort for any farmer. However, when farmers cannot send pigs to market, barns can become overcrowded, limiting access to food and water and present significant animal welfare challenges. The farmers we represent believe it is unethical to allow any animal to suffer.”