7 June 2001
Fiery protest marks election

By Donald MacPhail

FARMERS lit 200 beacons across the country on the eve of the General Election to protest against the governments agricultural policy, organisers claim.

Militant farmers group Farmers For Action say bonfires were lit from south Cornwall to Dumfries and Galloway on Wednesday (06 June) night.

The chain of beacons included 40 in Cumbria and 31 in Derbyshire, FFA chairman David Handley told FWi.

He said the protest was “very successful” and should serve as a warning to the next government.

Fire represented the pyres used by the government to tackle foot-and-mouth and the “phoenix” of British farming arising from the ashes, explained Mr Handley.

“Were telling the next government, whoever it is, that you may be able to burn carcasses, but you cant destroy the spirit of farmers.

“Theres a new breed of farmer, and the politicians have got to listen to us,” said Mr Handley.

Mr Handley said FFA was working on plans to create a new organisation to represent farmers as a more radical alternative to the National Farmers Union.

He said he was working with European farming groups and was in discussion with two major sponsors, one of which was a major insurer.

Meanwhile, the NFU has backed the Ministry of Agricultures “think twice” campaign, encouraging farmers to take precautions to prevent foot-and-mouth.

A new demonstration video being produced by MAFF includes key points on checking and separating stock, cleaning, and helping on neighbouring farms.

NFU President Ben Gill said: “Farmers everywhere must continue to think twice – every time they leave their farm, every time they inspect their stock, every time people visit them.

“It is a horrible routine to have to observe but, in the long run, it is better than losing everything and prolonging the spread of the disease of the disease.”

On Wednesday MAFF announced it was lifting more foot-and-mouth restrictions on 648 farms in an area around Crediton in Devon.

Freed-up farmers can send stock to any slaughterhouse willing to accept them, provided it can be reached in a journey of less than four and a half hours.

Restrictions are still in place in other areas of Devon and Cornwall, although MAFF said it was hoped several others could be lifted within a fortnight.

The Ministry also announced on Wednesday that the network of pyres built to incinerate animals killed during the foot-and-mouth crisis will be dismantled from next week.

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