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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Banks attacks 'cruel' slaughter policy
Banks says slaughtering healthy animals is 'wanton '
Former Sports Minister Tony Banks has condemned the Ministry of Agriculture's policy of slaughtering healthy animals as "cruel and wanton" in a scathing attack on its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The Labour backbencher accused the ministry of being "absolutely obsessed with slaughtering animals".

Mr Banks launched his broadside in a Commons debate before the start of Parliament's Easter recess on Tuesday.

I don't think anyone should ever underestimate the ability of Maff to foul up big-time

Tony Banks
Backing the decision to delay the May elections, he said: "I don't think anyone should ever underestimate the ability of Maff to foul up big-time, and the idea of that happening during a general election is too awful to contemplate."

He said he felt sorry for agriculture ministers.

They were caught between an "agricultural industry seemingly bent on self-destruction and the daleks that staff Maff, because they are always chanting 'exterminate them, exterminate them'."

Mr Banks said the mass culling of healthy animals seemed to have nothing to do with animal welfare.

It was all about "commercial viability".

'Cruel and wanton'

"The slaughter of healthy creatures seems to me both cruel and wanton," he said.

" It flies in the face of nature to slaughter healthy animals.

"Thank God Maff isn't actually running the NHS - although it would certainly do something to dramatically impact on the waiting lists!"

Mr Banks called for a government inquiry into food production - accusing the farming industry of acting "irresponsibly" and of "flying in the face of nature" on animal foodstuffs.

Tony Banks
Banks: Maff 'obsessed' with slaughtering animals
He voiced his sympathy for "decent farmers" and said they must be protected by eliminating "rogues and crooks" in the industry.

And he expressed anger over reports that a farmer at Heddon on the Wall, Northumberland - alleged to be the source of the current outbreak - might receive 50,000 in compensation.

"If this man is guilty, and I hope we are going to find this out, he should be prosecuted. " If he is guilty he deserves to go to jail.

"He doesn't deserve to get 50,000 compensation."


Paddy Tipping, the Deputy Commons Leader, said he hoped the government would soon be able to lift restrictions in areas where there had only been one outbreak and where the disease seemed to be under control.

"Those people who try to divide the town and country communities on this issue are being very short-sighted," he said.

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