9 August 2002

Standstill concessions

wont stop day of action

By FWreporters

FURTHER exemptions to the 20-day standstill rule for livestock in England and Wales are unlikely to prevent a day of action taking place on Monday Aug 12, protesters have warned.

As FARMERS WEEKLY went to press on Wednesday, Aug 7, NFU president Ben Gill was locked in talks with junior DEFRA minister Elliot Morley which had been going on for most of the week.

Industry insiders said they believed that the government was set to announce concessions allowing breeding cattle and sheep to move from markets to on-farm isolation facilities without incurring the 20-day rule for the rest of the unit. DEFRA remained tight-lipped about the details but it is thought one of the conditions would be that isolation facilities were checked by a vet before and during the quarantine period.

Jonathan Barber, spokesman for the anonymous group behind the threatened protests, said that this was a significant step and he applauded the massive effort made by the industry since protests were first mooted a week ago at the Sheep 2002 event, Malvern, Worcs.

But he warned that the concessions might not be enough to stop farmers taking to the streets.

"The fact remains that the 20 day rule is not scientifically based and will continue to damage the livestock industry unless it is abolished completely," added Mr Barber.

"I dont think they [government officials] have grasped what this is going to do to the industry," he said. "The effects are just not economic – it involves a huge increase of stress."

He now believes that the threat to protest, first seen on leaflets circulated at Sheep 2002, will be carried out. The leaflets suggested farmers should decide for themselves what course of action would be appropriate.

"It may mean 20 or so farmers and vehicles driving around roundabouts to slow down movements of traffic; it may mean interrupting the business of the major multiples. We are certain you have the imagination to deliver the desired effect," it said.

Mr Barber stressed protests should be peaceful and law-abiding. Farmers would have to get the balance right so as not to alienate the public, he added.

"The emphasis is that we conduct ourselves in an orderly and responsible way within the law to conduct a peaceful protest."

Mr Barber, who is also chief executive of the Charollais Sheep Society, said that the demonstration had no connection to the national strike proposed by Farmers for Action on August 23. &#42

(News, Aug 2).