6 October 2000
Roadside checks on Anglian pig men

By David Green and Mike Stones

EAST Anglian pig producers struggling to survive the swine fever crisis are to face roadside spot checks to prevent the illegal movement of pigs.

Checks on vehicles in Suffolk have already been agreed by the county council and the countys police.

Norfolk is to implement similar inspections once agreement has been reached with the police.

Junior farm minister Baroness Hayman praised the move as “an excellent example of local and central government working together”.

But Ron Tuck, eastern region chairman of the National Pig Association, said pig farmers should be commended for their responsibility and not have to face wild accusations.

“The government should be trying to douse the flames of this situation not throwing fuel on the fire,” he told the Eastern Daily Press newspaper.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said a significant minority of pig farmers were flouting movement and hygiene restrictions.

Meanwhile, condemnation of the governments handling of the crisis by farmers became increasingly bitter this week.

A Suffolk farmer whose pigs have been slaughtered as part of the control programme described MAFFs operation as “absolutely diabolical”.

John Flatt, of All Saints South Elmham, near Halesworth, met NFU president Ben Gill to tell him of the impact the disease restrictions were having on his business.

The 243ha (600-acre) mixed farm is within a protection area where movements of livestock and other agricultural operations are restricted.

For more than a month Mr Flatt, chairman of Halesworth NFU, was prevented from marketing calves and he believes MAFF vets interpreted the regulations incorrectly.

“It took five weeks of phone calls before I could get the restriction lifted but we dont think it should have been imposed in the first place,” he said.

Then he heard that his 3200-head herd of healthy pigs would have to be slaughtered as a precaution because of a “dangerous contact”.

The contact, a visit from an employee from a farm with an infected unit, occurred more than seven weeks previously and Mr Flatt argues that any disease transfer would have become apparent in that time.

“MAFFs handling of this affair has been absolutely diabolical.

“We still dont know when well be able to restock. Nobody seems to know what is going on,” he said.

Mr Flatt, like many East Anglian farmers, is angry that farm minister Nick Brown has failed to visit the region to see the impact of the disease at first hand.

They are also appalled that Mr Brown left the swine fever outbreak unmentioned in his speech to the Labour Party conference.

The minister, under pressure to tour East Anglia farms, said he would visit the region before parliament reassembles on 23 October.

Brian Finnerty, NFU spokesman in East Anglia, said “It is important he comes to see the situation himself.

“It is turning into a tragedy for a lot of people.”