Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr James Thompson, Easton Estates (M 11)


  Now that the surveillance order in this area has finally been lifted, I have a little more time to write and describe the very severe effects which the recent outbreak has had on this farm. We were initially placed under surveillance on 8 September 2000, and this was eventually lifted, after 11 weeks, on 25 November.

  Easton Estates has been involved in the production of pigs for the past 25 years, with a breeding herd of some 400 sows on an extensive outdoor unit. For several years we have been taking the progeny through to a finished live weight of 100kg for the supermarket Waitrose, to their very exacting standards for free range pork. We have always taken pride in producing unsubsidised pigs to of the highest welfare standards, and have found the past 11 weeks, through no fault of our own, have placed an enormous level of stress and financial loss on the unit at a time when most people concede there is an ongoing crisis in farming.

  Prior to this we have managed to weather two years of falling prices and have only survived due to having negotiated a contract for a niche market, along with four other producers—something encouraged by both government and consumers. Prior to this outbreak we were optimistic about our future in the production of pigs.

  The initial action taken by MAFF has, however, totally reversed the situation. I would like to point out that if, following the initial outbreak at Quidenham, there had been a policy of slaughtering all pigs within 1 kilometre and the associated pyramid effect of that outbreak, the consequences would have been far less protracted, severe and wide-reaching.

  The past 11 weeks have been a roller coaster of misinformation and lack of communication, resulting in immense stress and strain on our whole farming operation. It has been impossible to plan, due to the long wait for blood test results (anything from eight to 21 days), and lack of information as to when the ban would be lifted. This inadequate resourcing of the veterinary and associated services has, in my view, resulted in an unacceptable slowing down in the clearing of the restriction zones.

  Suddenly to be unable to move stock off farm has resulted in a huge loss of income and additional costs, as you will see form the attached breakdown, and the whole sorry saga has brought us close to financial collapse through no fault of our own. Many of the pigs that we were unable to move have grown to well outside the limits acceptable to Waitrose and have been slaughtered under the welfare scheme, at a greatly reduced value. Since we, as producers, feel that the action taken during this outbreak has on the whole been woefully inadequate, we feel that some degree of consequential compensation should be forthcoming.

  We in the front line of pig production, whilst not looking for subsidies, feel a serious grievance about the level of compensation being offered at the present time. We look forward to action being taken to allow our industry to be in fair and level competition with our colleagues in the European Union.

1 December 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 2 February 2001