15 June 1998
Downpour fails to dampen Welsh farmers anger
By Bob Davis in Cardiff
ON the eve of the European Council, around 10,000 farmers braved torrential rain in Cardiff yesterday (Sunday) to demand the immediate lifting of the beef export ban.
European Union ministers arrived in Cardiff last night to for a two-day summit to mark the end of Britains six-month presidency of the union which finishes on 31 June.
Before they led a march through the city, union leaders and politicians were cheered when they said it was time to take politics out of the BSE issue.
Scottish NFU president George Lyon insisted that the UK had done everything required by the Florence agreement, and there was no scientific justification for maintaining the ban.
He and other speakers said they were outraged by the idea that imminent elections in some EU countries – namely Germany – could influence the decision.
Bob Parry, president of the Farmers Union of Wales, warned that the farming crisis threatened 8000 ancillary jobs in Wales. He accused Dr Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, of being “the Chancellors lapdog”, and claimed his Ministry was more committed to supporting the Treasury than farming.
“Many Welsh lowland farmers have an income of less than £6000 to support their families and service borrowings,” said Mr Parry. “We have demonstrated the depth of the crisis, and the Governments own figures have confirmed it, but there has been no reaction.”
Speaking to farmers at the Cardiff Arms Park rugby ground before the march, National Farmers Union president Ben Gill said he feared for the futures of young farmers who had assembled in the crowd. He said their outlook remained bleak when so many farmers were being sacrificed to political posturing.
“The clear message from today to the 15 heads of Government attending the summit is that farmers have waited long enough for the export ban to be lifted.”
Following the demonstration around 100 farmers travelled to Fishguard and set up a blockade to prevent lorries carrying Irish meat from leaving the ferry terminal.