6 August 2001
Virus payments spark press storm

By FWi staff

NEWS that 37 farmers have each claimed more than 1 million in foot-and-mouth compensation arouses much comment in Britains daily newspapers.

Opinion is split on whether the revelation is a government anti-farming plot, evidence of financial mismanagement, or an example of mollycoddled farmers.

An editorial in The Daily Telegraph claims the revelations are part of an orchestrated post-General Election government campaign against farmers.

“Labour is indulging in gratuitous farmer-bashing to distract attention from the poor fist it has made of the epidemic,” it says.

The fuss shows how little ministers understand about rural life, adds the paper, as country people are unsurprised that some stock is worth 1m.

“Before the election, the government cried crocodile tears for farmers. Now it is baring its teeth,” says The Telegraph.

In the same newspaper, West Country farmers wife Sally Leaney says the fundamental point is that animals were slaughtered by a government ruling.

If your house were in the path of a new London airport you would expect compensation too, she tells readers.

The Daily Mail says the disclosure of the 1m compensation claims shows that the crisis has been “hideously expensive” for taxpayers.

“But the fault lies with those who devised the system rather than those now making use of it,” it argues.

It says vaccination would have been at least 3bn cheaper than the slaughter-only policy, which is expected to top 5bn.

In The Independent, columnist Stephen Pollard says the public should not simply be angry about this “seemingly astonishing largesse towards farmers”.

He hopes “this latest bout of mollycoddling marks a turning point in the way we treat this most cosseted of all industries”.

Mr Pollard says farmers must be brought to understand that the only sustainable form of farming is one without subsidy.

The Guardian makes its views plain with a cartoon depicting a cigar-smoking farmer leaning over his gate, surrounded by dead livestock.

He carries a placard which says “Pick Your Own Virus, Millions of to be Made”. On the gate another sign states: “Foot-and-Mouth Area, All Welcome”.

The same newspaper comments on news that Lord Haskins is to head a rural recovery programme in areas hit by foot-and-mouth disease.

His appointment signals that Downing Street plans to drive through a radical reshaping of agriculture and will alarm farm leaders, it claims.

Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, believes subsidies mollycoddle farmers and there is no place for small inefficient farms, says the paper.

  • The Guardian, 06 August, 2001, page 16
  • The Independent, 06 August, 2001, page 1, 3 Review page 4
  • Daily Mail, 06 August, 2001, page 4, 5, 10
  • The Daily Telegraph, 06 August, 2001, page 4, 18

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