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Sunday, June 13, 1999


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UK farmers block port in pig protest
05:33 a.m. Jun 11, 1999 Eastern

By Christopher Lyddon

LONDON, June 11 (Reuters) - British pig farmers blockaded one of the country's biggest ports late on Thursday, to protest at imports of meat they claimed could be contaminated with dioxin.

But some angry truckers used their trucks to break through part of the blockade, getting out through one of the gates of the port at the massive commercial port at Felixstowe in eastern England.

``The lorry drivers were very aggressive at being held in the port,'' a spokesman for the British Pig Industry Support Group, which arranged the blockade, said.

One farmer had been arrested and the police were reported to be considering further action, he said. ``We've always had a good relationship with the police. We're not like French farmers.''

French farmers have a long standing reputation for violent protest, while demonstrations in Britain have been more low-key. ``I sometimes wish we were more like them,'' he added.

``The main issue is the obvious issue of Belgian meat and bonemeal possibly coming from carcases of dioxin poultry,'' the spokesman said.

British pigmeat producers have ccomplained about what they say are lower standards, for welfare in particular, on continental pigfarms. Britain unilaterally banned the stall and tether method of pig rearing from the start of this year. And the use of meat and bonemeal in animal feed was banned in Britain in the wake of the mad-cow scare.

In August last year, Stewart Houston, chairman of the British Pig Industry Support Group, told Reuters that British producers were put at a disadvantage by the tougher standards.

He did not accept supermarkets' statements that they could insist suppliers in the Netherlands and Denmark should reach the standards.

The group's spokesman said on Friday that it had spoken to renderers and feed compounders in mainland Europe and was convinced it had a genuine complaint over dioxin. ``It's not just scaremongering,'' he said. ``There's no doubt it has happened and is happening. We're going to get very hard nosed about this until the government does something.''

There had been some unpleasant scenes. The farmers were in place before the planned start at four o'clock in the afternoon, local time. ``Within about ten minutes there were lorries backed up as far as the eye could see,'' the spokesman said. After half an hour of negotiations with the police, the group had decided to let trucks through going into the port, but stop those coming out.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, the main truckers' organisation in Britain, said that truckers had problems just like pig farmers. ``It's a bit of a paradox. The haulage industry sees itself as badly treated as the pig farmers.''

British hauliers have demanded and got official compensation where French demonstrations have caused long delays, but this was on a much smaller scale.

  ((Christopher Lyddon, London Newsroom +44 171 542 7928 fax +44
171 542 8077,

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.Reuters News Service
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