Farmers leaders anger at Blair snub

24 March 2001

Farmers leaders anger at Blair snub

By John Burns, south west correspondent

A LEADING critic of the Governments handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis is seething after being snubbed by Tony Blair during his trip to Devon.

Despite being chairman of National Farmers Union Devon, David Hill was not invited to meet the Prime Minister during a whistlestop visit to the county on Saturday (24 March).

The Prime minister heard first-hand accounts of the impact of foot-and-mouth on farmers, auctioneers, tourism and other related industries.

His visit co-incided with dramatic moves to extend culling to animals on farms bordering premises with confirmed foot-and-mouth, although this can be decided on a case-by-case basis.

On the same day the number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases rose by 45 to 560 as criticism of the Ministry of Agricultures handling of the crisis has grown.

Mr Hill said: “I wanted to tell him that no matter how brilliant the national plan was it would not work unless the obvious ineptitude in the MAFF system from top to bottom is not removed.”

The Devon leader accused MAFF of overseeing a communications shambles on the announcement of the extended pre-emptive cull, claiming he was given contrary information on four occasions on Friday.

Mr Hill will continue to campaign against including some cattle in the extended pre-emptive cull “unless the science can convince me otherwise” or the situation worsened further.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown or Chief Vet Jim Scudamore are expected to visit Devon soon in the next few days.

Among those who met with Mr Blair were by Tim Brooks of the Country Landowners Association, the NFUs Anthony Gibson, and two farmers.

Auctioneers were represented by David Lockwood of Stags.

Meanwhile, Devon dairy farmers Richard and Sandy Loud and their two sons say the contiguous cull cannot start soon enough — but should not include cattle.

When foot and mouth was diagnosed on the neighbouring farm at Lewdown, the Louds say for five days they begged MAFF to remove sheep close to their boundary, but without success.

On Saturday they learned that-foot-and mouth had been confirmed in their 500-head pedigree dairy herd with family lines tracing back to 1938.

Some cows have already been slaughtered and the rest will follow quickly, as will their pedigree Angus herd as well.

The Loud family feel very bitter about the situation as they watch the destruction of business they built up since 1982.

But Mrs Loud is still firmly against culling cattle on neighbouring premises. “I think if they kill out the neighbouring sheep they will stop it spreading, she said.

“With cattle you can see the symptoms more easily. We did everything possible to protect our cows.

“None of us has left the farm for the past month but it still got us. BSE didnt finish us, but foot-and-mouth has.”

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

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