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French Farmers Protest at Chunnel

October 26, 1999

CALAIS, France (AP) _ Angry French farmers gathered outside the tunnel linking France and Britain on Tuesday to inspect the cargo of incoming freight trucks in a further escalation of the conflict over 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 on the beef imposed in 1996 as a result of the mad cow crisis. Evidence has linked the bovine disease with a fatal human brain condition, Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

About 50 farmers from the northern Pas-de-Calais region assembled tractors and other large farm equipment at the Channel Tunnel’s French exit Tuesday, stopping trucks to search for British agricultural products.

The farmers decided to take action after several British chain stores stopped stocking French products in retaliation for the embargo.

Police presence was heavy outside the tunnel, where traffic was slowed for several hours. Farmers 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 a boycott of British food if British farmers carried out a threat to boycott French products.

Britain argues that a French report to the EU on its continued ban presents no new evidence that British beef is unsafe. Britain wants the EU to take retaliatory measures against France.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin by telephone Tuesday, and again pressed the French to relent.

British farmers were further angered by 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.

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