Pig farmers driven to desperate action

1 September 2000

Pig farmers driven to ‘desperate action’

By Alistair Driver

THE National Pig Association claims the government has jeopardised all the work done in the past three weeks to eradicate swine fever in East Anglia.

The government has awarded just 35 for each pig slaughtered under the scheme to tackle welfare problems in swine fever control areas.

Farmers say the true value and cost of keeping each pig is nearer 100.

This gulf in figures could push farmers into taking desperate measures, warns NPA regional manager Ian Campbell.

He said farmers will be unwilling to enter pigs into the slaughter scheme.

The scheme has been open since Wednesday but only one lot of pigs has been booked in so far, he said.

Some of the 700 affected farmers may try and hold out until the restrictions are lifted, in early to mid-September at the earliest, by filling every corner of their farms with pigs.

But some farmers may now feel so desperate that they have nothing to lose by trying to move pigs to premises outside the surveillance zone, he said.

He does not anticipate that that producers will resort to shooting pigs.

I think the greater danger now is that they will try and shoot themselves, he said.

Mr Campbell was dismissive of comments made by farm minister Nick Brown today that the government had more than met half way the demands of pig farmers.

Mr Brown, speaking at a farmers market in Newcastle upon Tyne, said there had been no legal obligation for the government to compensate farmers and that no government had done this before.

Mr Campbell said the level of the payment makes no sense at all.

Why risk damaging all the good work that has been done? he said I personally abhor a government that preys on the weak and vulnerable.

He rejected ministry of agriculture claims that an application for more money would have been turned down by the European Commission.

MEPs have confirmed that the commission would have allowed the government to pay farmers full market value if this had been had asked for it, he said.

Mr Campbell said the blame for the low figure appeared to lie more with the Treasury than MAFF.

He said Treasury officials had no idea what was happening to farmers affected by swine fever controls.

He agreed that some sort of protest by angry producers was likely in a bid to get more money. But we are still pursuing the political approach at the moment, he insisted.

He, along with other NPA leaders, met junior farm minister Baroness Hayman on Friday morning.

Association vice-chairman James Black said the minister had been left in no doubt about the desperate financial situation of farmers unable to move their animals.

While making no promises, the minister agreed to look at what might be done, he said.

The NPAs calls for increased payments were backed by the Meat and Livestock Commission, the British Retail Consortium, the Pig Veterinary Society, the British Meat Federation and the British Meat Manufacturers Association.

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