11 June 1999

England rugby star fined for animal cruelty

DUSTY Hare, the former England rugby star, has been convicted of animal cruelty.

Mr Hare, 46, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,450 costs after admitting four offences of failing to dispose of animal remains and two of causing unnecessary suffering to sheep.

Newark magistrates were told that council trading standards officials went to Mr Hares 92ha (228 acre) farm in South Clifton, Notts, after they had received a complaint.

They found that 75% of the animals in one of three fields he rented from a neighbour were sick.

One was starving because of a broken jaw, two had kidney failure through tapeworm infection and another died on being freed from a ditch.

Mr Hare claimed he was a victim of the agricultural crisis and admitted that he had become disillusioned with farming following a drop in livestock prices and the general malaise throughout the industry.

Stephen Gelsthorpe, defending, said that Mr Hare had "taken his eye off the ball" while he was afflicted by a virus in the weeks leading up to the inspectors visit. His client was acutely embarrassed by the court appearance, Mr Gelsthorpe added. &#42

NFUmen dismiss modulation option

A MEETING of NFU county chairmen has decided that it would be counter-productive to pursue any form of modulation where the cash saved would have to be diverted to schemes which require government match-funding.

Under the Agenda 2000 package, national governments can cut direct payments by up to 20% and use the savings for agri-environment and forestry schemes, hill livestock payments or an early retirement scheme.

All those would fall under the EUs rural development package and would require member states to match the money spent on the schemes. If that did not happen, the EU Commission would reclaim any savings from direct payments.

After the meeting, Devon county chairman, Richard Haddock, admitted he had voted against modulation, despite many in his area supporting the concept.

"Unless my members want me to take on the government in the hope that it can be persuaded to come up with match-funding there seems no point in pursuing those forms of modulation," he said.

The only possible modulation realistically available was through the beef national envelope, Mr Haddock added.

The south-west NFU recently sent a proposal to the unions national livestock committee suggesting that the beef envelope should be used to top up suckler cow premium on the first 25 cows in each herd. But the suggestion was defeated by three votes during a committee vote.

According to Mr Haddock, the main argument against the proposal was that it would also give extra money to "good-lifers" and professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, who also had part-time farms.

A series of meetings is being planned in the south-west to give members the chance to suggest how they want the government to allocate national envelope funds.

Meanwhile, at last weeks NFU Wales-Cymru council meeting, delegates agreed that modulation should be given further consideration, but only if the money saved was guaranteed to stay in Wales and was matched £ for £ by central government.

The council also insisted that any money cut from direct payments should be spent on mainstream farming and not on agri-environment or early retirement schemes.

But, according to senior NFU policy advisers in London, that is not possible under the Agenda 2000 deal. &#42

Vets back calls for price review

VETS have joined Scottish farmers in calling for a government inquiry into the pricing of animal health products in Britain.

Keith Baker, president of the British Veterinary Association, said on Monday that a review of the distribution and regulatory systems was needed. He told the BVA annual Scottish dinner in Edinburgh that the systems contributed to the high costs of veterinary medicines in the UK.

But Mr Baker condemned illegal imports, reported to have grown from a trickle to a flood as farmers cut costs.

"The campaign for the responsible use of medicines in agriculture is widely supported, but the whole industry will have to be seen to be acting responsibly if the consumer is to be persuaded not to buy on price alone," he said.

"We have a residue surveillance system that is second to none and the results are published regularly. But these results could easily be undermined if the consumer perceives that some farmers are behaving in an irresponsible manner."

Scottish NFU leaders welcomed the BVA support for a campaign to reduce animal health product costs. They met Mr Baker before the dinner and emphasised that veterinary products were sometimes twice the price of identical products elsewhere.

"We cannot compete on level terms with farmers in other countries when their veterinary products are so much cheaper," said animal health and welfare spokesman David Mitchell.

Union president Jim Walker has written to the Department of Trade and Industry calling for an inquiry into the differences in pricing of veterinary products in the UK compared with other countries. &#42

Disease monitoring group is founded

A NEW group to co-ordinate the surveillance of farm animal diseases and infections has been announced by junior farm minister Jeff Rooker.

The Surveillance Group on Diseases and Infections of animals will be chaired by government chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore. It brings together the UKs four agricultural departments and the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group – the precursor to the Food Standards Agency. &#42