Back

From Farmers Weekly 13/06/ 97

Pat Bird smells something rotten in the state of Europe.

Is the BSE fiasco an accident or part of a conspiracy to scale down British Agriculture? I was told 25 years ago that there would be no long term future for UK farming within Europe. Each country had its core industries, and Britain's were finance, insurance and tourism, according to a City tax consultant. In 1984 during meetings to protest at disproportionate cuts in UK milk quota the idea was repeated by senior civil servants. We heard it again last year after the SDC Network visited Brussels.

In 1972 I ignored that information. !n 1997, with the benefit of hindsight, I believe it. In the seventies UK govts staved off bankruptcy with huge loans from the EU and USA.

What was promised in return?

In the late seventies UK cattle were compulsorily treated with West German OP insecticides at up to four times the dose used elsewhere. Slaughter cattle were rendered in mainly Dutch owned plants using a process imported from the USA. An agreement reached in 1990 specified the Community would not take responsibility for BSE research, or finance it.

Many people in various govts within Europe were not slow to realise that if British research was conducted into BSE then the disease would be perceived as a British problem.

How right they were. The reward for our honesty has been the destruction of our beef industry.

As we implemented rules to stop BSE, warnings given to the commission in 1990 by the European renderers association about the use of specified bovine material in animal feeds and potential cross contamination in mills, were ignored by our govt.

Between 1988 / 1996 it allowed imports of 227,841 t of unprotected meat and bone meal.

Did that prolong our Epidemic? Was it media leak that prompted Mr Dorrell's statement on March 20 last year (1996)? Strange that the govt commissioned a market research survey into the effects of Mr Dorrell's statement 2 weeks before the bombshell dropped, yet had no safety net in place.

The Florence agreement committed the UK to an open ended slaughter policy overseen by Europe with nothing in return. It wasn't enough that the UK was incinerating every animal over 30 months and killing calves.

While we destroy the cheaper end of our home produced beef sector for the forseeable future, imports supply our market.

Last year (1996) EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler said, as he proposed the calf slaughter scheme, that Europe had 1million too many beef cattle. Who expected this country to shoulder most of the cuts? The UK herd has plummeted from about 15m in 1974 to nearly 9.5m today(1997)

The decline should have meant prosperity for those left in business. But beef prices, at the bottom of the European league, are at a 20 year low.

Meanwhile retail prices are static as govt, supermarkets and manufacturers welcome unmonitored imports from every corner of the globe

causing supply to exceed consumption. feed companies are facing contraction of up to 20% this year (1997).

Are Uk farmers prepared for their part?

The GATT agreement requires europe to shed 40% of its farmers. Like the cattle are they to be British too?

Why have our farming unions allowed all this to happen, were they too included in some secret deal? Have they accepted fools gold of compensation today at the expense of farmings long term prosperity?

So where does our future lie? As proud British farmers, park keepers or, if scheming eurocrats have their way, as part time peasants?

Remember the above article was written in 1997

Back