27 July 2001

Readers make their views known to PM

Pressure is mounting for a

full public inquiry into the

foot-and-mouth crisis.

Donald MacPhail was

overwhelmed by the

thousands of responses

which have flooded into

FWs office from readers

THOUSANDS of farmers weekly and FWi readers have voiced demands for a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis. Letters have poured in to the magazine since FW launched its petition a fortnight ago urging Tony Blair to conduct a full-blown public investigation.

More than 2000 readers have so far called for a full inquiry, with many more responses expected in the coming days. An FWi online poll attracted hundreds of votes within hours of opening, with more than 99% backing a full public inquiry.

The strength of feeling is typified by Caroline Russell from Lambourne End, Essex, who made copies of our poster cover (left) calling for an inquiry. She gathered around 500 signatures within a week and her local pub and shops have requested more copies of the FW letter.

The Prime Minister has effectively ruled out a public inquiry, arguing it would be too slow, although an alternative investigation could include some open hearings. But many FW readers and FWi users believe anything less than a full public inquiry will suggest that there has been a government cover-up.

Two fingers

"Blairs decision not to have a public inquiry is proof that he has a lot to hide," claimed an FWi user from Cumbria. "He is sticking two fingers up at farmers because he knows that he will not lose support by not having a public inquiry as he never had our support anyway."

Only a public inquiry will bring to light the suppression of information and efforts to mislead the public, says a user from Leics. But he asks: "Would that result in most of the cabinet being prosecuted?"

Despite Mr Blairs efforts to woo farmers, many readers accuse ministers of being anti-farming. One Kent farmer said in 40 years of farming he had "never seen a government department act so indecisively and with so little application of common sense. If you would rather import all food, please tell us now".

A beef producer who has watched animals go over-age due to restrictions said the governments handling of F&M defied logic. "We are in a desperate situation and Blair does not care. He does not even begin to understand what farming is about, and neither does Margaret Beckett."

Fran Evens from Taunton, Somerset, said: "I want to know why my business, health and way of life has been destroyed through no fault of mine. Once again, the government has the gall to blame farmers."

And a farmer from Wigton, Cumbria – the most heavily infected county in the UK – suggested the Prime Minster needed first-hand experience of the crisis. He asked: "Tony, why not spend a day on a farm where animals are being slaughtered?"

Readers can still add their voices to demands for a public inquiry. Simply sign the form accompanying the FW letter to the Prime Minister and return it post free, or log on to FWi and cast your vote in the online poll. Letters and FWi Yes votes will be delivered to 10 Downing Street. &#42