31 August 2000
Brown is like Pilate say pig farmers
By David Green in Suffolk
AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has been likened to Pontius Pilot by farmers caught up in restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of swine fever.
About 150 farmers met at Brome, Suffolk, on Wednesday (30 Aug) to discuss the situation regarding the restrictions and the fight for compensation.
One of them described Mr Brown as a Pontius Pilate figure who has washed his hands of the crisis. Another said the ministers attitude was a national disgrace.
Many farmers with healthy pig are still not able to move their animals because of movement restrictions around five infected farms.
Mr Brown has said that compensation will not be payable because restrictions due to a swine fever outbreak are what he calls a normal business risk.
However, he has announced that he is seeking the go-ahead from Brussels to compensate farmers with pig welfare problems because of the restrictions.
David Barker, who farms at Westhorpe, Suffolk, said he knew of no other business that the government could close down and then refuse compensation.
He added: “Frankly, this is a national scandal.”
Pig farmers in the region had acted responsibly by not trying to move pigs out of the restriction zones. Now they were being made to pay for it by politicians.
“If, in the future, we have a problem with a notifiable disease, the message from the Government is to move your pigs out as soon as you can because otherwise you will be ruined,” Mr Barker said.
James Black, vice-chairman of the National Pig Association, said Mr Browns advisors were “dead cold” to the idea of helping the industry at a recent meeting.
But Lincs farmer John Godfrey, the associations chairman, said attitudes had since “moved on” and a degree of sympathy had been expressed by the Treasury.