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15 July 2001 Issue
Phoenix From The Ashes?

by Bertie Senior - Hrhbertie@btinternet.com 

Ingrid Newkirk, President of PETA recently stated that she welcomed the spread of FMD through the U.S. as "it would shake up consumers." Controversial as this may sound, it appears to be beginning to happen here in the UK. In the early hours of this morning the BBC 24 hour news programme broadcast a news item concerning the rise in the demand for more organic produce, (80%) before the outbreak of FMD, and the desire of farmers to go down this route as they have to adapt to consumer demands (note the incentive of finances, not animal welfare). This however

shows a remarkable shift in attitudes to modern farming in a very short space of time. It could well be that FMD could be the catalyst that could see the beginning of change. Other events are also significant. The supermarket giant Sainsbury's openly advertises it's commitment to organic farming, displaying signs above the shopping aisles and the demand far outweighs what the UK can produce and has to import. The government has been under pressure for many years to reform animal agriculture from organizations like Compassion in World Farming and Animal Aid and are now actually asking advice from these bodies -- a huge advance in itself.

Even on a personal level the residents of my own community have perceptively changed their attitude towards me. This is an area which has always been agricultural and the mentality of "You must have meat to survive still pervades." I live close to where the epidemic originated and their sense of guilt is tangible (if not muted) and the vitriolic, often violent abuse that I used to have to endure has ceased (he told us so ?).

As for the poor farmers, tearfully bemoaning their losses, here are some interesting facts:

1) Farmers have received full market value for animals slaughtered. Payment per dairy cow is as much as 1,100 and they have been granted 60 for each lamb. Even spent ewes -- for whom the regular market had collapsed -- were each drawing 32 compensation. The full amount is not yet known.

2) As early ago as April just over 300 farmers received compensation totaling 1.3 million, with the largest sums going to some of Britain's wealthiest landowners. Willie Cleave, the Devon farmer and live exports dealer whose widespread buying and selling of sheep helped spread disease into that county, has received 1.3 million. He was reported to be down at his

local pub, gloating over his good fortune and toasting the Minister of Agriculture (Mail on Sunday, April 15). Billy Waugh the owner of the farm where the outbreak was identified (a previous farm he ran was closed because of the stinking, squalid conditions) was reprimanded by the government with a 50,000 handout.

3) More money was paid for sick animals than for healthy ones. This led to farmers deliberately infecting their own sheep (Farmers Weekly March 23). The method is to take a rag and wipe it over a diseased sheep's mouth and then rub the rag onto an uninfected animal. The BBC reported some farmers thrusting the feet of live sheep into boiling water to produce FMD-type blisters. Cases were also found of farmers deliberately moving their sheep into 'hot spots'.

4 ) Some farmers claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of subsidies for sheep they in fact did not own (Daily mail, April 11; Private Eye, March 23)

5 ) Additional help has come from Prince Charles, The Royal Bank of Scotland, newspaper appeals and the racing industry. More help from the government is in the form of an "agrimonetary compensation" -- 20 million and set to rise.

All this for an industry that represents 0.8% of the UK's gross domestic product. It employs around 1% of the working population, valued at 2.3 billion. Tourism on the other hand is 64 billion and employs 2 million -- and their compensation -- pitiful in comparison.

After all this I can only quote Dr. Steve Best "Let us turn tragedy into opportunity " and hope that the sacrifice of these animals will spark off a new fire of resurgence that will light the way forward.

More info can be found at www.animalaid.co.uk

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