12 April 2001
Union defends ‘open country’ stance

By Alistair Driver

THE National Farmers Union has defended its decision to back a campaign encouraging the public to return to the countryside over the Easter weekend.

It has added its name to a series of adverts in national newspapers informing the public that the countryside is open, despite the foot-and-mouth crisis.

But NFU president Ben Gill has also told farmers that they must re-double their efforts not to spread the disease through their own movements.

This followed a series of outbreaks in previously uninfected areas. Mr Gill said: “The isolated outbreaks redouble the need for farmers to be extra careful.”

He also urged farmers from infected areas not to go other parts of the countryside, and stressed to the public the need to take all necessary precautions.

But he insisted that he was not sending out conflicting messages by backing the governments campaign to encourage people back to the countryside.

He told FARMERS WEEKLY: “Farming and the rural tourism industry go hand-in-glove – we must all work together to get through this.”

The advert, which stresses that many attractions are open and many countryside activities can go ahead, asks visitors to respect three golden rules:

  • All keep-out and road-closed signs should be obeyed;
  • People should keep away from livestock;
  • People should keep off open farmland and open country.

With the crisis now about to enter its eighth week, Mr Gill said it was increasingly important for countryside businesses to generate some income.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage