28 February 2000
Churchmen back pig vigil

By Alistair Driver

PIG farmers manning the industry vigil in Parliament Square in London are going right to the very top in pursuit of help for their demoralised industry.

With no joy from Tony Blair and his government, they will turn their attentions to a higher authority on Tuesday (29 February) when the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev John Oliver leads prayers at the vigil site at 11am.

A delegation from the General Synod, meeting at Church House this week, will discuss the social impact of the crisis with pig farmers, who have been supporting the round-the-clock vigil since the beginning of the month.

On Wednesday, the synod will debate the pastoral impact of the farming crisis and a motion calling on the government to develop a long-term strategy for agriculture and introduce a retirement scheme for farmers.

If carried, the motion will also call for a reduction in red tape in farming and a clearer labelling policy.

“British pig farming is unfolding before our eyes,” said the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Lord Runcie, himself a former pig farmer.

“It is an economic and personal tragedy. It is not inevitable. It must be resisted.”

To coincide with the Synod debate, pig farmers will lobby Parliament on Wednesday to reinforce calls for a 270 million compensation for extra costs imposed as a result of the BSE crisis.

The lobbying farmers will be joined by Liberal Democrat agricultural spokesman Colin Breed MP.

Vigil spokeswoman Jane Guise said there was no shortage of farmers volunteering to take their turn in Parliament Square.

“Were taking a very strong message right next to Parliament and farmers are eager to take their turn to do this.

“If it will make a difference, I dont know, but at least were doing what we can.”