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FACTORY FARMING - Now it's lambs
Posted 1 September 2002
The leading farming industry journal recently hailed a sinister new development in the commercial 'production' of sheep.
Current sheep breeding and fattening methods already involve the liberal use of drugs and special feeding and breeding regimes in order to produce more lambs per ewe - often in the dead of winter rather than the spring. The result is increasing levels of disease and early mortality, with some 15 to 20 per cent of all lambs perishing within days of birth, principally from disease exposure or malnutrition.
This level of 'efficiency', however, clearly doesn't satisfy the industry. The June 7 issue of Farmers Weekly described an East Yorkshire farm in which 600 ewes were manipulated into producing nearly 1,000 lambs in January. But instead of the youngsters leaving the sheds and grazing for a few months prior to slaughter, they were fattened on an intensive diet indoors and sent straight from the sheds to slaughter after 16 weeks.
In other words, the factory methods of pig production are now being applied to lambs.
The benefits to the 'producer', raved the FW article, included 'improved gross margins', better use of labour and the opportunity to grab bigger taxpayer-financed subsidies in the form of Countryside stewardship benefits (paid because the lambs were confined in sheds rather than trampling the ground).
Has the industry learnt nothing from the foot and mouth, BSE, swine fever, salmonella, bovine TB and other costly outbreaks linked to intensification? Answer: No.