Food Standards: Protesting beef farmers send cheap Irish imports packing to a watery grave

The French approach to agricultural disputes came to Holyhead yesterday. Farmers in North Wales, angry at cheap beef imports from Ireland and the hardships caused by the BSE ban on exports, stopped lorries arriving from the Republic and threw boxes of beefburgers into the harbour. Tony Heath witnessed the carnage.

Irish beefburgers worth pounds 70,000 swilling around in Holyhead harbour yesterdaywere testimony to the anger of Welsh farmers complaining that they were heading for the rocks because of poor livestock prices.

The protest coincided with the publication of Government figures which showed that British farmers' income this year is forecast to be 35 per cent lower than in 1996.

The 40-tonne cargo was stolen when around 600 protesters forced open the doors of one of several Irish lorries arriving in the North Wales port on board the Stenna Explorer. The route from the docks was blocked and the protesters had spiked barriers capable of shredding tyres in reserve.

The Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies, and leaders of both the National Farmers' Union and the Farmers' Union of Wales, were swift to condemn the action. Mr Davies sympathised over the plight of beef farmers hit by the strong pound and the export ban resulting from the BSE crisis, but he condemned the Holyhead action. "Anyone who committed a criminal act should be prosecuted," he said.

Bob Parry, president of the FUW, who farms on Anglesey, was appalled. However, he warned: "The government will have to take notice. If they don't, God knows what will happen next time."

Sir David Naish, NFU president, described the events which lasted until daybreak yesterday, as counterproductive. "Threats will not solve the problem," he said.

The actions will not win support in Europe from the Council of Ministers, where talks to end the beef export ban are going on. The Secretary of State for Agriculture, Jack Cunningham, said: "There is no easy pot of gold in Brussels, waiting to be picked up on behalf of farmers. Violence and the destruction of legitimate products will not help to resolve the situation."

Around 20 police officers were at the scene but no arrests were made.The events followed a meeting in the nearby market town of Gaerwen.

When the ferry docked the protesters were ready. They refused to allow through meat lorries but let other freight pass. Lorry drivers approaching the port to embark for Ireland were held by police outside the town. Daniel Hodges, of the Road Haulage Association, said that blockade tactics witnessed in France seemed to be spreading. "The last thing our members need is similar action here," he said.

As if to underline farmers' concerns, Welshpool market - the largest in Wales - yesterday reported the lowest level of business for years with stock being returned to farms unsold. One farmer said: "A year ago I was getting pounds 380 to pounds 420 for an animal. Today I'd be lucky to get pounds 270 for a similar beast."

The protest carries echoes of 1974 when the port of Holyhead and the railway linking it to the national network were both blockaded by farmers protesting at the import of live cattle from the Republic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk