Animal Aid

FOOT AND MOUTH - Some good comes from the misery

Posted 1 December 2001
Lamb and fire

Animal Aid looks at some of the positive consequences that have come out of the misery of the foot and mouth epidemic.

The misery suffered by millions of animals in the foot and mouth epidemic has, thankfully, had some positive consequences. These include the halting of hunting, live exports and livestock markets; and the very public lesson that the public has received about the callousness with which the meat industry and its regulators treat farmed animals.

The ban on live exports is total throughout the UK. While cattle and calf exports were already prohibited due to continental worries over BSE, the export ban is now extended to pigs (121,000 exported in 2000) and to sheep (762,000 sent overseas last year).

Livestock markets were closed down soon after the epidemic took root in February, recognised, at last, as phenomenally efficient mediums for spreading disease.

While markets throughout England, Wales and Scotland have closed for normal business, a number continue operating as 'collection centres' for slaughterhouses, whereby pre-purchased animals pass through en route to the killing factories. Only in Northern Ireland - declared as officially clear of the disease - do some 20 to 30 weekly markets trade as normal.

Through our MarketWatch network, Animal Aid has been monitoring and reporting on welfare standards at Britain's livestock sales since 1994. We've produced three major reports and undercover videos. Our evidence has been used to inform new government policy and to train market employees across the country. Our most recent investigation, Bartered Lives, was published in June last year and contained evidence of aggressive and neglectful treatment of animals, as well as of ramshackle, unhygienic conditions at many markets. It also pointed to the lack of accredited training of animal handlers; lack of access to water; animals arriving sick, diseased or injured; and poor enforcement of regulations.

We called on the government to:

  1. Establish a welfare league table of markets, based on data provided by the State Veterinary Service vets. Markets unable to meet a standard consistent with current welfare requirements would be required to upgrade immediately or close.
  2. Provide sufficient financial resources for the proper enforcement of the law and the government's own 1998 welfare strategy.

Animal Aid is calling upon its supporters to:

  • Write a polite letter to the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), endorsing our two recommendations as set out above. FAWC is currently producing an important report on the future of markets that will determine future government policy. Ms Kuma Adhihetty, Secretariat, Farm Animal Welfare Council,1 Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ
  • Young lambs, calves and piglets are being killed as part of the foot and mouth 'cull' by being injected into the heart - a painful and traumatic procedure prohibited by the US veterinary profession, except where animals are heavily sedated, unconscious or anaesthetised. Our complaint to the standard-setting Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has been rejected in an adjudication containing inconsistencies and an important factual error. With support from Compassion in World Farming and the Green Party, we are taking the case for a Europe-wide ban on this killing method to the European Union.

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