Farmers' Verdict On Handling Of FMD Crisis: So Far So Good

UK - The Scottish farming industry appears reasonably well satisfied with the way the foot-and-mouth crisis is being handled, judging from opinions expressed yesterday during a media briefing at the Rural Centre at Ingliston.
calendar icon 7 August 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
Jim McLaren, the president of NFU Scotland, is not renowned for holding back on major issues if he deems criticism is merited, but he reckons there is a far greater degree of cohesion than was the case in 2001.

He said: "The way in which the Scottish Executive and the chief veterinary officer in Scotland have reacted has been excellent. Their tenacity is all we could have wished for and we are particularly pleased at the way in which Richard Lochhead [Cabinet secretary for rural affairs] has kept in touch and really seems to be up to speed.

"But what we need to see next is the movement of animals under licence. Welfare considerations are one area where we hope to see some progress. That might include bringing animals inside for calving and the necessity of moving stock for grazing reasons or shortage of feed."

The biggest problem undoubtedly lies in the pig sector, where numbers build up very quickly. In a normal week about 14,000 pigs are processed in Scottish abattoirs and farmers who cannot move these animals will rapidly run out of space. The cost of keeping pigs beyond their normal slaughter weight and age will amount to thousands of pounds a day across the country. Gaining permission to move pigs for slaughter is the top priority.

In Scotland, over a typical week 9,000 cattle and 32,000 sheep are also slaughtered. According to Scott Walker, the senior policy director with NFUS, the total weekly value of cattle, sheep and pigs processed in Scotland is in the region of £9.4 million.

If virtually no animals are slaughtered there is a fear that supplies in the supermarkets and butchers' shops might run down to the extent where panic buying by consumers could be triggered. There is no need for this, according to Donald Bigger, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

He said: "The information we have from the processing companies is that there are enough supplies of beef, lamb and pork from Scotland available to avoid any shortages if movement restrictions are reasonably short-term.

"We are urging our major retailers to stick with us during what we all hope will be brief period of disruption. We are holding talks with key buyers this week and will be pressing home the message that our industry needs their support."

McLaren was slightly less diplomatic when he added: "We have heard for years of how the supermarkets want to support home-based industries. Well, this is the classic opportunity for retailers to put their money up front."

One piece of good news in the wake of movement restrictions is that farmers are now permitted to bury dead animals on farm, a practice that has been banned, apart from in the more remote regions of Scotland, for more than two years. This derogation has the full support of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), provided that the approved code of practice is followed.

Source: Scotsman
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