19 November 1999

West Country farmers jump on battle bus

FORTY West Country farmers, frustrated that their voices were not being heard in the heart of Europe, hired a bus this week and drove to Strasbourg to strengthen the British MEPs calls for an end to Frances beef ban.

The farmers cheerfully endured cramped conditions during the 1400-mile round trip by coach, travelling on Monday and Tuesday nights, in order to make their points to the MEPs. The coach was sponsored jointly by Devon NFU and Mole Valley Farmers co-op.

One of the three drivers needed was Donald Arscott, Devon NFU deputy chairman. He drives buses to supplement the income from his dairy farm.

In Strasbourg John James (MVF President) asked "What sort of Mickey-Mouse institution" was it which allowed France to break EU law? There must be no concessions to France over the ban.

It was time to stop pussy-footing about. And he questioned: "What about compensation for this libellous slur which the French are continuing regarding British beef and for trade lost since August 1st?"

Devon NFU chairman Richard Haddock told MEPs "We want the ban lifted without making any further concessions, and we want compensation".

The overall verdict of the farmers on the trip was "interesting to see how the system works", a feeling that the banners, Union flags and farmer-presence had helped ensure good national media coverage, and that the briefings had helped MEPs make their points strongly. &#42