12 September 2001
Farmers call for winter welfare aid

By Alistair Driver

THE government is coming under increasing pressure to act to avert an animal welfare crisis that looms on farms in counties in the high-risk foot-and-mouth category.

The NFU has called for higher payments under the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme (LWDS) after it warned that thousands of animals face starvation over the winter.

Under new autumn movement arrangements announced by on Tuesday (11 September), livestock in high risk counties are banned from leaving their county.

These counties include Cumbria, Northumberland, Powys, while sheep are not allowed to leave Devon.

These restrictions, say the NFU, will confine thousands of animals that would normally have moved to other parts of the country in the autumn to their farms.

NFU president Ben Gill said the prospects for many livestock farmers are now “extremely bleak”.

“Farmers face the daunting prospect of winter approaching, with depleted feed supplies, increased stock numbers and a severe lack of cashflow.”

He accepted the reasoning behind the tight controls “with a heavy heart”.

But he said the NFU will be holding urgent talks with Defra ministers in a bid to get higher payments for affected farmers under the LWDS.

This was backed by the National Sheep Association, whose chief executive John Thorley warned of dire welfare problems if the weather is wet over the autumn.

But he also accepted the restrictions, saying they strike the right balance between disease control and allowing farmers to operate.

But National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster is opposed to moves to increase payments under the welfare scheme.

“The last thing we want to happen is for all our cattle to be slaughtered under the welfare scheme,” he said.

“The government is not paying very much under the scheme and that is good because it means it must rescue livestock by helping to get food and bedding on to farms.”

Shadow Defra secretary Tim Yeo said there were a lot of concerned farmers whose livestock are at risk if they cant come down from the hills.

He said the government must make plans to avert a welfare crisis.

“It is absolutely vital that the government has an effective contingency plan in place for any eventuality,” he said.

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