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WATCH: Protesting beef farmers celebrate 'David and Goliath' moment in meat factory standoff

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan


Farmers protesting at a meat factory in Rathdowney, Laois over beef prices have said that it was a ‘David and Goliath’ moment when they stopped a lorry from leaving the factory today.

Around 40 farmers engaged in the picket at the gate and mounted a peaceful protest. One farmer said it ‘felt great’ to overcome the ‘faceless’ factory while another said it was ‘the monopoly versus a few’.

A decision was made in the High Court on Friday whereby permanent injunctions were upheld to prevent illegal blockading across all Dawn Meats plants, with similar orders given for other factories too.

The farmers were served with injunction notices this morning but refused to look at them or touch them. They were left blowing around the street and they said the litter warden was called.

Michael Kelly is a farmer from Ballybrophy. He said it was like 'David and Goliath' for the group of independent farmers to force the lorry to back into the factory.

“David and Goliath and David won with the stone. I thought maybe at one moment he might come forward and hit you and hurt you but that didn’t happen.

“They tried to get out two loads of meat but we kept the protest in front of the trucks and kept them in. We stood our ground and continue to do so. 

“Before that, they came up to serve an injunction on us. We don’t know what is in the injunction. They served the injunction by throwing the papers at our feet. We wouldn’t pick them up to read them or even to look at. The guards were there to keep an eye on things, they were very helpful. 

“The truck driver did make an attempt to drive over the bodies but we held our ground so he held his ground then and after a 15 or 20-minute standoff the guards backed them back. 

“We are trying to get some bit of a lift in the price of meat, we are trying to get the 30-month rule up to 36 months and we are looking to have the 70 day stay on the cattle on the farm reduced as well.

“It would make an awful difference to our income.  

“In July 2018, cattle were in or around €4 a kilo but now it is around €3.32 to €3.40 somewhere in that region. That’s a big drop per kilo. 

“Monopoly rules, they are the monopoly, they have the money, they have the power. The Christmas tree shows how long we are prepared to stay, it is symbolic,” he said. 

Farmer Packie Ryan from Tipperary said there isn’t a level playing field for farmers and factories. 

“A farmer has to hold his cattle for 70 days whereas the factories can bring in that same animal directly two hours later and have it killed. That is not a level playing field. 

“It is affecting ourselves and our families greatly because we are neglecting all our work just to try and get a peaceful protest and points across trying to get things slightly changed for the rural development of farming. 

“If we don’t take a stand now there are 60 or 70 cents dropped in one year, where will it be for the next 30 or 40? It is for ourselves and for whoever might be left on the farm the way things are it doesn’t look as if there will be too many.

“Even with protestors around the country all you have to do is see the age profile it's up in the 70s back to the 40s there are very few under that age now. They have left the land,” he said.