04 August 1998
Farmers Ferry protesters target FUW
By Johann Tasker
ANIMAL rights campaigners will tomorrow (Wednesday) picket the Farmers Union of Wales in protest at the unions support for live sheep exports.
Protesters from Compassion in World Farming will demonstrate outside FUW headquarters in Aberystwyth. They want the union to abandon its support for the Farmers Ferry initiative, which aims revive the large-scale export of sheep to France.
Farmers Ferry was founded three months ago by five Welsh farmers in attempt to raise enough money to boost sheep exports by subsidising shipments. The farmers are now in negotiations to buy an existing export company and expect to set sail later this month.
But animal rights campaigners say the farmers are out of touch with the general public.
“The farmers behind this scheme have badly misjudged the public mood towards animal welfare,” said Peter Stevenson, political and legal director of Compassion in World Farming.
Protests at ports across the south of England three years ago forced the major ferry companies to abandon the trade in live animals. Since then, the export trade has slumped and resulted in an oversupplied domestic market.
Sheep farmers are desperate to revive sheep sales to the Continent. They say the export trade is their only hope of staying in business. The Farmers Ferry project has won the support of the FUW, many of whose members are sheep producers.
“We are still firmly committed to the principle of expanding the export market,” said an FUW spokesman. “We fully support the principles behind Farmers Ferry. They have assured us that they will meet all the animal welfare regulations.”
About 1.7 million live sheep were exported in 1994. Last year that figure had fallen to 437,000.