Union urges ban on meat brought in by travellers for their consumption; INFECTION: FUW wants loophole closed.
IMMEDIATE action must be taken to prevent potentially disease-infected meat entering the UK from abroad a farmers' leader has urged.
Speaking at the union's annual dinner in Caernarfon, Farmers' Union of Wales president Bob Parry demanded immediate government action to close a legal loophole which the union believes is putting the health of people and livestock at risk.
"Considering the enormous trauma inflicted on the rural economy by last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic, it is extraordinary that people are still being allowed to bring a kilo of meat from any part of the globe as long as it's for their own consumption, " said Mr Parry.
"The union's own research has shown that this loophole is being exploited by unscrupulous gangs who are smuggling tons of illegal meat into the country every week.
This loophole must be closed immediately and anyone found breaking the law must be dealt with severely." The union's view was that many experts believe last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic was caused by the bug being carried into this country on infected meat and Mr Parry criticised the fact that successive governments over many generations had failed to take the threat to livestock and food supplies seriously.
"A cattle plague broke out in Britain in 1865 which caused devastation across the farming community. An official government investigation at the time concluded that infected cattle were imported into this country and spread the disease through the domestic herd.
The investigation concluded that better controls should be introduced to prevent infected animals or meat products from entering the country, " he said.
"Yet here we are, 137 years later and still potentially deadly meat products are being imported into this country." The union wants the government to take immediate action by closing a loophole that allows visitors to the UK to legally bring one kilo of meat in their luggage for personal consumption.
It also wants investment in more resources to combat the potentially-lethal health hazards posed and to introduce a total ban on all food products entering the country and disposal of any food being carried by passengers.