28 November 1997

Pest control in jeopardy, union is to tell MPs

NFU leaders will brief MPs today to stress that any changes in the law will reduce farmers ability to control pests, such as foxes, hares and deer.

Although members acknowledge that pest control problems can be very localised, they claim dogs are an effective way to track culprits, particularly in flushing foxes out from rough cover.

Without fox-hunting, vulnerable extensive livestock units, such as outdoor pigs holdings, poultry farms and sheep enterprises will face increasing numbers of predators.

Barney Holbeche, NFU parliamentary adviser, says much will be made of the unions extensive consultation process among its membership over the summer.

Service value

Many of the responses centred around the value placed on the service of collecting casualty animals by the local hunt kennels, saying it was speedy, cost-effective and avoided on-farm burials.

Members also regard hunting as an integral part of country life, a key component of the rural economy and a provider of jobs in the countryside.

Mr Holbeche says he expects Michael Fosters Bill to have overwhelming support during todays second reading, but to find life much harder during its committee stage.

"It will come back to the floor of the house early next year, when I expect opponents to filibuster in a bid to talk the Bill out.

Not helpful

"There is a feeling that it would not be helpful politics to leave it up to the House of Lords, when reform of the upper chamber is under scrutiny," says Mr Holbeche.

Jobs issue

The jobs issue has also been taken up by Country Landowners Association president Ian MacNichol, who claims up to 25,000 jobs will be lost.

"There would be a reduction in income to rural areas by an estimated £176m, and there is the animal welfare consideration as well," he adds.