06 April 1999
Farmers to join protesting lorry drivers
By Johann Tasker
HUNDREDS of pig producers are threatening to join angry lorry drivers in a mass demonstration aimed at bringing central London to a standstill next Monday.
An estimated 1500 farmers and their Land Rovers are preparing to join up to 2000 lorry drivers in a slow moving convoy of vehicles to protest against government policies.
Both groups of protesters claim they are seriously disadvantaged by policies which give overseas competitors the edge over their British counterparts.
The lorry drivers claim they cannot compete with European hauliers because last months Budget increased British fuel costs by more than 6%.
They will be joined by farmers who claim British pig production costs are being forced up by strict animal welfare rules introduced by the government in January.
The two groups of protesters intend to drive slowly around the perimeter of Hyde Park, jamming the roads and causing chaos to commuters and tourists.
A similar protest last month by lorry drivers brought many streets to a standstill but failed to wring any concessions from the government.
Next Mondays demonstration will be the first time pig farmers have protested in London since they burnt the Union Jack outside Downing Street in January.
British pig prices have collapsed over the past 12 months in a crisis said to have lost the industry an average of £6 million a week since last summer.
The farmers claim the new welfare regulations have resulted in a flood of cheap pigmeat imports produced under conditions that would be illegal in this country.
They are especially angry that the government has failed to take on board the recommendations of a report from the Commons Agricultural Select Committee.
The report, submitted to ministers two months ago, criticised the government for enforcing strict welfare rules ahead of the rest of Europe.
The governments response to that criticism, which will be published later today, has already been condemned as inadequate by farmers.
“The government is sitting on the findings of the select committee and has done nothing,” said Bernard Howard, a pig farmer and haulier from Peterborough.