Anger as Asda targets pressure group
THE pressure group Farmers For Action, whose members face legal action from Asda over blockades at its retail depots, is demanding to know how the supermarket company could have hand-delivered letters to the homes of more than 50 of its co-ordinators and activists without breaching the Data Protection Act.
The letters, threatening to bring injunctions and claims for damages if the blockades continue, come as dairy farmers say milk prices in the industry have hit an all time low. "We only get 17p per litre, yet it sells in the supermarkets for 50p," said John Cummings, a Stranraer dairy farmer and a member of Farmers For Action (FFA).
"We won’t be bullied because we are threatened by a giant bully. We want to warn Asda that we won’t go away, we can’t afford not to fight. There is a real concern of a serious milk shortage. We are in crisis. Looking at the wider picture, there needs to be serious negotiations about the price of milk and realistic prices for us."
The FFA has been advised by an independent QC that Asda would find it difficult to get a court to sanction any indictment and that if "unlawful" action had been taken, police would have been called.
It was advised to ask Asda’s solicitor, Eversheds, to supply information showing where it obtained the names and addresses of members so that it could be sent for investigation to the Data Protection Agency.
The letter, from Eversheds, acting on behalf of Asda, warned: "Your actions and those of other members/supporters of Farmers For Action constitute unlawful conduct as a result of which Asda is suffering significant loss. We must therefore ask you to cease your activities with immediate effect. If you refuse to do so then Asda will commence proceedings against you for an injunction to prevent any further unlawful conduct which disrupts the activities of any Asda property. It will also seek to recover from you the costs of court proceedings and compensation for all losses incurred as a result of all your unlawful activities."
Dave Handley, the leader of the FFA, said: "This move by Asda has infuriated our members."
James Withers, from the National Farmers Union of Scotland, said the country’s dairy farmers had reached breaking point, with 700 farms driven out of milk production in the past five years because the price they received didn’t cover their costs.
"The reason we’ve lost a quarter of Scotland’s family dairy farms is because they couldn’t secure a fair share of the profits on milk and dairy products," he said. "The blunt fact is supermarkets are making billions in profits while dairy farmers go under. Farmers are not asking the consumer to pay any more - there is enough in the current shelf price to ensure everyone in the supply can make a living."
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