25 February 2000

Club relaxes rules to aid campaigners on pig vigil

THE Farmers Club, one of Britains most prestigious but conservative farming establishments, has relaxed its formal rules in support of the on-going pig vigil in Parliament Square.

The club, based in Whitehall, is supporting campaigners who are camping outside the Houses of Parliament in protest at government reluctance to help the pig industry.

Demonstrators manning the vigil – which is entering its second month – are being given free flasks of tea and coffee during the night. They are sleeping on straw bales in a home-made shelter of wood and tarpaulin.

In the mornings, Farmers Club staff have been told to overlook the strict dress code of jacket and tie for campaigners using the toilet and washing facilities. Those visiting for breakfast are asked to finish by 8.15am, before other guests arrive.

Grieve Carson, Farmers Club secretary, said the club was pleased to be helping a good cause. He said: "It has been nothing glamorous and what we are doing is only small but we must do our bit. It is the very least we could do and we will continue doing it for as long as [campaigners] are there."

The vigil at parliament square has attracted 66,000 signatures of support from the public, MPs and tourists over the past three weeks. More than 1800 farmers have signed up to support the protest by manning the site for 12 hour shifts.

The National Pig Association, which has helped organised the vigil, has pledged to stay until the government does something to save its beleaguered industry. &#42