Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Farmers' Union Faces Revolt in Vaccination Row

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Farmers' Union Faces Revolt in Vaccination Row

Article excerpt


THE leadership of the National Farmers' Union, already on a collision course with the Government over the vaccination issue, now faces a growing backlash from its own members.

There is dismay among many farmers over the NFU's refusal to support a proposed vaccination scheme, and suspicion that the policy is being dictated by the interests of the dairy industry.

Cumbrian sheep farmer Tom Lowther said: "The country is being held to ransom by the NFU. The big money and power is concentrated in dairy cows and that is where the decisions are being made. If vaccination was an option for me I'd take it. I'm resisting the cull of my sheep but, with no alternative, I know that when they finish elsewhere they'll come and get me."

Alan Alderson, a sheep farmer near Kirkby Stephen, also in Cumbria, said: "I am a bit in despair with the NFU. It seems the sheep men are being sacrificed to protect the dairy farmers."

Mr Alderson, chairman of the Swaledale breed association, said he had been contacted by many farmers who shared this view, adding: "The NFU will be damaged by this, if it hasn't already been damaged."

A senior NFU official in Cumbria, deputy county chairman Will Cockbain, is in open revolt against the union's leaders over vaccination. He said: "I cannot agree with the NFU on this. A more open-minded approach would have been more helpful. I don't think the members have been as well-informed as they should have been, and I have seen evidence which has convinced me that vaccination would give us a better chance of getting on top of this disease."

Mr Cockbain, a hill farmer, said vaccination could help prevent a "second wave" of the outbreak occurring when cattle are let out on to summer pasture that could already be infected.

He said: "If this happens, what would have been the point of the sheep cull?

Many people would see it as a tragic waste."

He said the majority of Cumbrian farmers wanted to give vaccination a chance. But at the NFU headquarters, in Shaftesbury Avenue, there was no sign of a change of heart among the union's leaders. …

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