Blair is target of FUW presidents broadside
By Robert Davies Wales correspondent
THE Prime Minister, DEFRA, farmer bashing MPs and wildlife groups came under fire at the annual meeting of the Farmers Union of Wales on Wednesday (May 29).
Bob Parry used his presidential address at Aberystwyth to pour scorn on the governments decision to ignore calls for a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
"The only conclusion that I can reach is that Tony Blair is running scared on this issue," said Mr Parry. "He is frightened that a public inquiry will expose incompetence and inefficiency at the heart of Westminster.
"He would rather cloud the issue by having a series of inquires held behind doors, so that the governments mistakes during the crisis can be buried alongside millions of rotting carcasses of sheep, cattle and pigs – with a glossy pro-government spin put on the final reports."
Mr Parry insisted it was not too late for Mr Blair to change his mind and urged him to take any criticism on the chin, just as the union had criticism of the way it had behaved.
The FUW did not want a witch hunt, but lessons must be learned to draft an action plan that ensured the same mistakes would not arise again.
On the deepening bovine tuberculosis crisis in Wales, he slammed those who believed badgers could do no wrong and who argued that the best way of eradicating the disease was to create no-go areas for cattle. Until such people changed their blinkered mentality and accepted that difficult decisions must be taken, cattle and badgers would continue to suffer cruelly.
Mr Parry was also scathing about negative-minded politicians, like Newport MP Paul Flynn, who constantly talked the industry down because they saw farmers as easy targets.
"They often talk about the billions of £s in subsidies that farming receives, describing farmers as scroungers sponging off the taxpayers of this country. But they fail to give the full facts about worldwide trade.
"Halting European aid would put our farmers at a major disadvantage on the world stage and would virtually hand control for global food policy to the US."
As long as food entering the UK was cheap, some politicians were happy to forget about animal welfare, the use of dangerous feed additives and the poverty standard wages paid in countries where it was produced, he said.
Mr Parry appealed to politicians to visit farms, so they could learn the truth about life on modern family farms and get involved in constructive dialogue about future policy. *
• For more on the FUWs annual meeting, see next weeks issue.