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British agriculture is in crisis , and has been long before the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The last outbreak hit these islands in 1967 when a thousand or so cases were reported .That state of emergency lasted for eight months.Since then we in the UK have been certified as a foot and mouth disease free area.
As I write we have had 461 cases reported so far in this latest outbreak . Worringly Holland , France and Eire have also reported cases in the past few days.
This begs the question will the disease spread throughout Europe? It may well do . After all there are at least 26 countries in the world where the disease is rife all the time anyway , countries such as Argentina , South Africa and the South America area .
I have sympathy with farmers to a point . But I cannot help but feel some of it is their own doing . You cannot continually break the rules of nature and expect to " get away " with it indefinately . Life on earth as we know it does not work like that.
The fact is although this virus was apparently caused by infected material from abroad probably meat , modern intensive farming methods are unhealthy . That is unhealthy both for us and the animals concerned. I am generalising here of course , some farms are better than others but no one can tell me battery hens are healthy . I've seen footage of dead hens in the same quarters as live ones , which have had to climb over the dead ones in order to reach a drink of water.
BSE developed to some extent as farmers and manufacturers tried to save money with cheaper feed such as sheep's brains . Come on ! Does that sound like sensible practise giving cattle sheep brains etc ? We still don't know how devastating BSE will turn out to be in the end . Recently there has been a nasty outbreak of scrapy in sheep too on some farms .
All these are not co-incidences. They are a fundamental sign that the whole industry is in trouble.
Healthy livestock can as a rule shake off many diseases , rather like healthy humans getting less bad colds etc. Up to this Sunday just gone there had been only 1 reported outbreak of foot and mouth on an organic farm .What does that suggest ? Well I'm not saying cattle on these farms are immortal but the way you look after your animals and what you feed them on has a big effect on the overall health picture. The stats are there for all to see.
Taking animals over three hundred miles for slaughter is also rather silly.
Farmers will of course be compensated for this crisis. Indeed I know of one farmer in Scotland whose pigs are worth more in compensation value than they are alive . Bizarre . It certainly get's you thinking.
Of course it is upsetting to lose animals , but it's the farms with rare breeds that I feel for the most. These cannot be replaced in some cases , and only with difficulty in others.
Also innocent people who have rural businesses in the countryside are suffering through no fault of their own . Rural guest houses , wildlife centres , musuems etc - the takings are all down . Perhaps the strong will survive, but it certainly adds to the stress level.
In conclusion , this is a nasty business for sure. But the bottom line remains - intensive farming creates more chance of this kind of outbreak . And I feel more and more problems generally will emerge in the coming years.
I'm not sure this is the best cat for this op but it is the nearest I could find.
I add my voice to the "current affairs" category campaign! Good op, wrong category, but if was worth saying and you couldn't have put it anywhere else...
ImogenW 12.04.2001 21:43
No, this isn't the right category but I sympathise with your frustration in not being able to find a better one. There have been sporadic calls here on ciao for a category to cover opinions on current affairs - not strictly a consumer issue, which is why I think there isn't one, but one which lots of us would welcome. Maybe you should add your voice to the campaign...