Angry French farmers demand action on foot and mouth : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Friday, March 16 4:26 AM SGT

Angry French farmers demand action on foot-and-mouth

PARIS, March 15 (AFP) -

French farmers facing ruin under severe measures to control the spread of foot-and-mouth on Thursday demanded the mass vaccination of their livestock and increased compensation for slaughtered herds.

"We demand the highest state authorities plan without delay an emergency vaccination programme, whether at a European or French level," said a statement from the FDSEA farming union in the Eure region west of Paris.

"It seems bizarre to persist in not turning to vaccination, at least in areas surrounding confirmed outbreaks," said representatives of the smaller Peasants' Confederation in the Seine-et-Marne region near Paris.

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany has so far held out against demands for vaccination, arguing that his policy of sealing off suspected cases and slaughtering tens of thousands of beasts thought to be at risk has thus far controlled the outbreak.

But by Thursday tempers in the countryside were starting to boil over as thousands of farmers faced huge losses because of what they regard as inadequate compensation for destroyed livestock.

"The authorities want to destroy my flock -- 1,400 adults and 100 little ones. That's my entire flock, that's a whole year's work," farmer Jean-Philippe Deldycke of Deaulement in northern France said.

"They're offering me 500 francs (76 euros, 70 dollars) compensation per sheep, but I used to sell them for 1,100 francs each. I have the paperwork, it's in black and white," he added.

Deldycke held out in a tense standoff all day, refusing to allow police and veterinary officials access to his farm which he insisted was free of the disease, but eventually gave in and let the slaughter begin.

Although the highly-contagious illness has not reached the same epidemic proportions as in Britain, experts warned it could spell disaster for French agriculture and related industries already reeling from the effect of the mad cow crisis.

Union leaders said that should the disease spread as fast as it did in Britain, where 241 farms have been infected since the February 19 outbreak, it could cost the world's second biggest agricultural exporter billions of dollars.

"You only have to look across the Channel to see the disaster that could happen here," said Michel Joly, of the CNJA union which represents young farmers."We were already struggling with the mad cow crisis and now this, it's too much," he said. "This is going to translate into afinancial catastrophe for some farmers."

Joly and others in the industry said they feared the near total international embargo imposed on meat exports from France and in some cases on Europe as a whole could panic consumers who were already shunning beef.

The European Union has banned French livestock exports and banned the transport of dairy products out of the western Orne and Mayenne regions, where the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth was confirmed on Tuesday.

"The psychological effect of this embargo on our clients is the most worrisome factor," said Jean-Michel Lemetayer, head of the national federation of milk producers. "We are currently trying to assess the consequences."

Joly said he feared many farmers hit by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth could be forced into bankruptcy and some, as happened during the mad cow crisis, could be driven to suicide. "Our morale is at zero," he said. "We lived through a similar crisis in 1996 with mad cow and now we have to go through this again."

He said farmers were now waiting to see what measures the government and the EU planned to adopt to compensate them for their losses.The government last month offered 500 francs (76 euros, 70 dollars) in compensation per sheep slaughtered but farmers warned Thursday that the amount was insufficient.

France exports livestock, meat and animal products worth 7.6 billion euros every year, according to the National AgronomicResearch Institute.

-- Swissrose (, March 15, 2001

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