Beef Protest: Chinese inspection to beef plant postponed as protesters are 'willing to go to jail'
A CHINESE trade delegation postponed a planned visit to a Cork meat plant as protesting beef farmers warned they are now willing to be jailed to trigger action over low cattle prices.
Protests were maintained on the ABP beef plant in Bandon despite High Court injunctions and the warning that enforcement action could be taken against anyone who ignores the court instruction.
A Chinese delegation were to visit the west Cork plant on Friday to inspect its processing lines for potential future meat export contracts to the vast China market.
However, that visit will now take place on Monday.
Cattle slaughtering operations did not proceed at the Bandon plant.
The resumption of slaughtering operations at the plant over the next three days is now in serious doubt due to the inability of cattle shipments to access the plant.
Six cattle trucks were parked within one kilometre of the Bandon plant but none were able to access the plant because of pickets.
The number of farmers on the picket line had dwindled last week but the move to seek High Court injunctions and the threat to jail farmers who ignore the court orders sparked widespread anger - and a surge back to the protests.
One livestock owner, who asked to be unnamed, said the situation cannot continue.
"I am close enough to retirement but there won't be a (beef farming) generation after me if we don't get fair prices," he said.
"If we have to go to jail to get justice then so be it. But I hope we don't have to go down that road. All we are looking for is a fair price for a quality product."
"But make no mistake about it - we are prepared to go to jail if that is what it takes."
Farmers insisted they had put an offer to all meat plants to withdraw protests for the Chinese delegation visit but it was not taken up by some plant operators.
Livestock owners insisted they wanted to play their part in supporting the drive to achieve Chinese beef exports but such exports will be impossible if farmers cannot make a viable living.
A number of organisations have moved to support farmers in their demand for a compromise settlement with meat plants. Aontú official Paddy Scully said farmers had done everything possible to be conciliatory.
"The farmers had no choice but to continue their protests," he said.
"Irish beef is a great product and I think the Chinese are very interested in a good product. I don't think it (the farmer protests) will affect the Chinese in any way."
"Hopefully they will look beyond these protests and focus on the quality product that is Irish beef."
The protests were mounted outside the ABP plant in Bandon as well as other meat facilities nationwide in late July amid fury over low cattle prices.
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