"Before turning the Government propaganda machine with all its venom onto farmers, Tony Blair should put his own house in order", says Michael Fabricant. In a Parliamentary Written Answer to Michael Fabricant, Joyce Quinn (Junior Minister for Agriculture) has just admitted that the 24 hour a day foot and mouth hotline for farmers is not all it seems. Between 22nd February and the 25th March, 2,140 callers could not be connected because of over-loading of the system and a further 9,051 callers hung up in disgust when no-one answered the hotline.
"I have seen bedraggled, starved sheep living in grass-less quagmires", says Michael Fabricant. "If after having tried to contact MAFF a farmer shows some compassion in moving the sheep onto an adjoining field after taking all precautions to prevent the spread of foot and mouth, I have every sympathy with him. It is not for the Government to demonise farmers when they can’t get through to MAFF for permission to move their animals on welfare grounds. If the Government had moved quicker to stop this outbreak in the first place and had a helpline that works, we would not have seen so many outbreaks and so many preventative culls running into the 100s of thousands".