8 September 2000
Pigs smuggled away from zones

By Alistair Driver

FARMERS fearful of being caught up in new swine fever controls are moving pigs off farms under cover of darkness, the National Pig Association has warned.

At least two more cases are expected to be confirmed soon following three new outbreaks this week, which have taken the total of confirmed cases to eight.

One producer told the NPA website that word of new outbreaks is getting out to producers quicker than its reaching the Ministry of Agriculture in London.

As soon as a unit has a problem that looks like testing positive, the producer concerned tells his neighbours and theyre shifting pigs so as not to get trapped in new control zones, he said.

Although the action is not illegal, it is causing concern to Ministry vets because of the disease risks involved.

They are also worried about unconfirmed reports that people are now moving pigs out of control zones, the NPA reports.

NPA regional manager Ian Campbell blamed the actions on the inadequacies of the funding of the governments slaughter scheme to remove excess pigs in the region.

People are not prepared to see their businesses go down the tube, he told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme. The last thing pig farmers want to do is cause additional problems.

But when you are faced with the position when its either your farm and your family that is going to go down the Swannee, or other people are going to suffer, well you know who you look after first.

Mr Campbell is due to attend a meeting in Peterborough on Friday (08 Sep) to discuss negotiations between MAFF and NPA about improving payments to farmers who enter pigs into the slaughter scheme.

The meeting will be attended by other NPA leaders, National Farmers Union president Ben Gill and producers affected by swine fever movement restrictions.

The NPA wants to canvass opinion on its proposals to increase payments from 35 for each finished pig slaughtered under the scheme to 65.

Controversially, 15 a pig would come from a statutory levy of around 20p a pig from all producers.

The NPA believes that, with MAFF relying on its cash reserves to fund the scheme, a producer levy maybe the only way of ensuring sufficient money is made available.

Also proposed are payments are payments of 30 and 10 a pig, paid totally by MAFF, for smaller animals.

On Friday (08 Sep) morning A MAFF spokeswoman said the ministry is still considering the proposals.