24 August 2001

Inquiry or else: Campaigners

By Isabel Davies

CAMPAIGNERS have pledged to bring French-style farmers protests to the streets of London unless the government bows to pressure and announces a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Protesters vowed to return to London despite a disappointing turnout for a march through the capital on Monday (Aug 20). Up to 600 people marched for two-hours from Hyde Park to Downing Street. Organiser David Handley, who spearheaded last autumns fuel protests, had hoped 3000 protestors would attend.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Handley admitted turnout was lower than anticipated but insisted larger demonstrations would follow. A second demonstration is likely in about six weeks and the government could face "militant, French-style activity," he said.

Marcher, Ann Powell, a sheep farmer from Llanvapley, Abergavenny said the crisis had brought her to tears so many times she felt she needed to turn up. "Ive been waiting for a demonstration I can come to," she told FARMERS WEEKLY. "I think Blair is just a puppet of the EU and we need a full public inquiry."

The event took place exactly six months after F&M was first confirmed. It was a milestone marked a few hundred miles north on Orkney in a very different way. There more than 360 cattle went under the hammer in Britains first live cattle auction since February.

NFU Scotland president Jim Walker said the sale was a welcome step forward in the fight against the disease. But he stressed: "We still have a long way to go to get back to some kind of normality. Crucially, we still need to see our export markets reopened."

&#8226 See F&M six months on, pages 16-20; markets page 33 &#42