“An emotional roller-coaster ride,” is how Lynda Davies describes the battle to try to win compensation for the swill feeding industry.
As founder and co-ordinator of the Association of Swill Users (ASU), Mrs Davies has devoted virtually all her free time over the past six years to running the organisation, which has been lobbying MPs and preparing the paperwork ahead of the impending court case.
Although she had never previously been involved in any kind of campaign, Mrs Davies says she was very angry when the swill feeding ban was introduced, and was determined to take action. At the time her husband, Alan, was running a collection service from their home near Bury in Greater Manchester. He picked up waste food regularly from hotels and restaurants, delivering it to local pig farms.
The business turned over £70,000/year at its peak. But that slumped by 70% overnight. Others lost everything.
“We were involved in a recycling industry that was doing excellent work in preventing waste food from going into landfill, a disposal method which I feel increases the risk of another foot-and-mouth disease flare-up,” says Mrs Davies.
“The ban meant that people’s livelihoods, including our own, were wiped out at the stroke of a pen by government officials. Obviously, Bobby Waugh’s farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall should not have been allowed to carry on operating, but that farm bore no resemblance to the sophisticated units within the rest of the industry.”
Having called an initial meeting in 2001, Mrs Davies quickly realised the extent of the problem, and the ASU was formed in the same year. The organisation now has more than 50 members countrywide, and is still receiving dozens of calls each week.
“We’re truly grateful for every penny that has been sent to us to help clear the names of farmers. Many people have contacted us and made donations because they see this as the foot-and-mouth inquiry that we never had. “We now feel we are representing the honour of all of those people that have backed the action and are fighting on behalf of farming itself.”
Lynda Davies wanted to say thank you to all of the farmers who have made donations to help fund the case.
“We’re truly grateful for every penny that has been sent to us to help clear the names of farmers. Many people have contacted us and made donations because they see this as the foot-and-mouth inquiry that we never had.
“We now feel we are representing the honour of all of those people that have backed the action and are fighting on behalf of farming itself.”
Members pay an annual fee of £100, which goes towards travelling expenses for visiting MP constituencies, as well as legal costs. The ASU has also benefited from donations, including money from the members’ own pockets.
At one point, the Davies family was forced to sell their home and move into cheaper accommodation, because of the loss of income. Mrs Davies worked part-time in the perfumery industry, and a brief attempt at increasing her working hours had to be abandoned because of the time she felt she needed to devote to the ASU.
“At the start, I never realised what I was taking on, although I have no regrets. I think people should stand up and fight if they see an injustice being done.”
“Our members all have their own stories to tell, and I have spoken to people in great distress, having lost not only their income, but also their way of life. There were many occasions when I felt as if lobbying was getting us nowhere, and it was tempting to give up. However, I’m pleased that I continued, because persistence is the only way to succeed.
“I have not even thought about what will happen beyond the next few weeks – there is still such a long way to go. Six years ago I was a house-wife with a part-time job, and now I am a seasoned campaigner. It is hard to imagine a future in which the ASU does not dominate my life, and I won’t give up until we receive the compensation that is due to us.”
THE SEARCH FOR JUSTICE
- To see video 1 of Burnside Farm
- To see video 2 of Burnside Farm
- Swill users to sue DEFRA for 40m in battle for foot-and-mouth
- Why is foot-and-mouth legal action coming six years after the event