17 April 1998
Civil court threat to picketing farmers
By FW reporters
FARMERS who lead dock and supermarket pickets have been warned that they could end up in court.
Employees of targeted firms have tipped off protesters that charges in respect of unlawful disruption of trade will be laid against named organisers.
“In future, no individuals will lead protests. Different people will be standing at the front, and spokesmen will be elected on the spot,” said north Wales farmer Clive Swan. “We know that at least one supermarket chain has prepared legal papers to serve if its depots are picketed again.”
He was speaking after around 200 farmers picketed three Tesco distribution centres in response to the companys decision to begin importing Irish beef again.
Farmers who took part in the protests were shocked to be confronted by police in full riot gear, and dogs. At Chepstow, they were kept away from the depot approach road, but did manage to speak to the drivers of lorries entering and leaving.
One protester said: “Because we were on the main road from the old Severn Bridge, we did cause some traffic problems, which was not the intention. Our quarrel is with Tesco, not the general public.”
Devon NFU vice-chairman Richard Haddock, who attended the Chepstow picket, said Tescos attitude had hardened since the previous farmer blockades.
Only the firms corporate affairs manager, David Sawday, was prepared to speak to the protesters and, according to Mr Haddock, all he wanted to say was that farmers were shooting themselves in the foot by picketing their biggest customer.
“I told him farmers couldnt do that because they were already on their knees. I asked him if Tesco would go with farmers to talk to Government about the situation. He said Tesco was talking to Government all the time, but would not go with farmers.”
Mr Sawday had said Tesco was the farmers best friend. “If that is so, Id like to know who our enemies are,” said Mr Haddock.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 17-23 April, 1998