French farmers protest at Channel Tunnel

Ap
Monday 25 October 1999 23:00
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Angry French farmers formed a blockade at the Channel Tunnel on Tuesday to stop and search British freight trucks in a further escalation of the conflict over France's refusal to lift a ban on British beef.

Angry French farmers formed a blockade at the Channel Tunnel on Tuesday to stop and search British freight trucks in a further escalation of the conflict over France's refusal to lift a ban on British beef.

About 50 farmers from the northern Pas-de-Calais region assembled tractors and other large farm equipment at the French exit of the tunnel, searching trucks for British agricultural products.

The farmers decided to take action after several British chain stores stopped stocking French products in retaliation to France's continued embargo on British beef.

France has angered Britain by refusing to lift a ban on British beef imports, despite a European Union decision rescinding a worldwide ban imposed in 1996 as a result of the "mad cow" crisis. Evidence has linked the disease with a fatal human brain condition, Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

Police presence was heavy outside the tunnel, where traffic was slowed for several hours. Farmers found little to pique their anger and did not confiscate any British products.

Earlier Tuesday, Luc Guyau, president of the National Federation of Agricultural Unions, said French farmers were ready to call for a boycott of British food if British farmers carried out a threat to boycott French products.

Britain argues that a report submitted by the French to the EU to justify its refusal to adhere to the lifting of the ban presents no new evidence that British beef is unsafe. Britain wants the EU to take retaliatory measures against France.

An EU report Friday accusing French animal feed plants of violating European safety regulations by using prohibited substances, including sewage waste, in the preparation of cattle feed has further angered British farmers.

"If tomorrow England pushes things to the extreme" and decides on the "total boycott of all French agricultural and food products, I would simply say one thing. England is an island. An island is easier to blockade than a continent," Guyau said.

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