Tuesday, 6 November 2007

"It seems that we are obliged to kill ..."

Poor Cyprus. It has only been a member of the EU since 2004. They are now suffering their first foot and mouth outbreak since 1964 and many there must be aghast to see how membership of the EU brings with it all the miseries that farmers in the UK have suffered - stringent movement restrictions , surveillance, "biosecurity measures" and, worst of all, the forced killing of their farm animals. Hardly surprising that a crowd of angry farmers on Sunday blocked entry to the two farms where officials wanted to kill the animals. It was useless. The cull went ahead yesterday.

The Cypriot Agriculture Minister, Fotis Fotiou, showed in a radio statement his shock at the measures insisted upon by the EU:
"It seems that we are obliged to kill livestock from the three remaining farms as well, which represents around 1,500 animals. Nobody can rule out the culling of many more animals if other test results come back from London indicating the disease has spread."
After the false reassurances of an earlier all-clear at the end of October, the UK has now declared that the latest samples are positive for serotype O of the virus - and all the miserable clanking machinery of the EU has moved into place; the Union has banned all exports of fresh meat, live animals and milk products from the country; the Cypriot authorities have already killed all the sheep in the affected flocks; a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone have been set up around the holding - and thousands more animals are in the firing line, just as in the UK in 2001 and in this miserable year.

The President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, has told islanders (see report) that
"this is a sacrifice that must be made if the broader dangers for the stockbreeding industry of the island are to be tackled."
A sacrifice? But this too was the hollow consolation felt by the farmers in Surrey,who thought that their reluctant countenancing of the killing of their own animals would save other farmers from the same misery. The Emersons, when their animals - pigs, sheep and, worst of all, the breeding cows, all named, that they cared for so much - were all killed "on suspicion", consoled themselves that theirs would be the last farm. But at least 33 holdings in Surrey (not merely the 8 "infected premises" as officialdom would have people believe) suffered the same fate. Without even having on-farm tests to prove the presence of disease, all the Emerson's free range animals - even the two pet goats - were killed. It took hours to kill the pigs and the cows. It continued well into the night under arc lamps. Not one of the animals was subsequently found to have been infected with Foot and Mouth.
I challenge anyone to listen to the BBC's On Your Farm and fail to be moved by the courage, dignity and unsentimental sadness of this couple.

The right and honourable method of dealing with this disease is to use the blessing of modern virology: vaccination. But, for reasons one can only guess at, the UK would not use the on-site tests that could have saved the animals on all those premises that were summarily condemned by being designated "dangerous contacts" and "slaughtered on suspicion". It is despicable. The Emersons are too much affected by the death of the animals they had cared for to continue to keep breeding cows. And in spite of her stoicism, going into their eerily deserted pig barn with the interviewer proved too much for Mrs Emerson. The UK policy depends on the kindly decency of such farmers - and it lets them down.

And now we see the same misery descending on Cyprus.

What heartbreaking nonsense this all is. Foot and Mouth is not a terrifying killer. It is a disease where symptoms can be of varying degrees of severity. In Surrey they were so mild that many animals had recovered before being detected as having had the disease - but that recovery did not prevent the authorities from killing not only those animals but literally hundreds of others nearby. Yet in the EU and also in the US the downright lie persists that there are no vaccines that can provide an alternative to such indiscriminate killing.

Modern potent vaccines can be used to protect a nation's livestock. Instead, by making vaccination the poor relation in disease control, the EU continues to treat FMD as if it were an invincible terror necessitating the most draconian measures. While officials "stamp out" the disease they also stamp on the feelings and rights of the farmers and kick asunder all the ethics of humane, science- based veterinary care.

When the desperate idiocy of all this is finally put right and people look back on it all they will hardly be able to believe that we were capable of such callousness. As Alan Bennett says of the 2001 mass culling (Untold Stories p293):
"In fifty years' time I am sure that we will not handle animals the way we do now and to succeeding generations our behaviour will seem as barbarous as bear baiting...."

1 comment:

jaycam said...

I'm sorry but I cannot read such information without descending into tears. I was on our Smallholder helpline during FMD 2001, and the stories were horrendous. I have most of the books publishes post the event, and I still haven't managed to read any of them. I'm not at all scientific, so can't post knowledgeable comments on here, but feel this Government has something to answer for in the way of Animal and Human welfare. Nothing has changed since 2001.
Jo Cambage