08 September 1999
Ministers plan mass sheep slaughter

By FWi staff

GOVERNMENT ministers have confirmed they are considering a national scheme to slaughter thousands of sheep in an effort to ease the deepening crisis in farming.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown is holding a summit meeting with Scottish rural affairs minister Ross Finnie and Welsh agriculture secretary Christine Gwyther.

The ministers emerged from the summit on Wednesday afternoon to confirm discussions were continuing but no formal decision has yet been announced.

They are discussing the feasibility of introducing a cull ewe scheme to slaughter thousands of sheep based on welfare grounds rather than market intervention.

If all goes well, it is understood that scheme could be submitted to the European Commission before the end of next week.

Scottish rural affairs Ross Finnie, who has been lobbied by farmers desperate to see an end to the farm crisis, will be in Brussels next Monday.

The ministers are also believed to be discussing a relaxation of the regulations regarding the removal of specified risk material in sheep.

Farmers have blamed the rules, which mean that sheep carcasses must be split before export, for making overseas sales of British lamb uncompetitive.