Animal Aid

FOOT AND MOUTH - Letter to Ben Gill, President of the National Farmers' Union

Posted 8 May 2001
dead cattle

Animal Aid demand an apology:

Ben Gill
National Farmers' Union
164 Shaftesbury Avenue
London WC2H 8HL

May 4, 2001

Dear Mr Gill

From the very beginning of the foot and mouth (FMD) outbreak, many farmers have been looking to cast the blame for the crisis on anyone but the animal 'production' industry itself, while making extreme demands for financial compensation, courtesy of the British and European taxpayer.

Whatever the specific cause of the 2001 FMD epidemic, you must know that it has been fuelled by modern systems of animal breeding, transportation, bartering and slaughter. That infectious disease flourishes within this environment is no accident. The recent large-scale outbreaks of salmonella, E coli 0157, bovine TB, campylobacter, BSE, swine fever and foot and mouth signal that industrialised farming is in a state of permanent crisis.

The first victims of the oppressive systems operated by some of your members are the hundreds of millions of animals raised for slaughter every year in the UK. But the wider environment and the cultural and business life of Britain also pay a continuing heavy price.

Instead of shouldering responsibility for the FMD-related ills caused by some of your members, the blame has been heaped on such diverse targets as supermarkets, Brussels bureaucrats, Middle East terrorists, the Blair government, ramblers, foreign meat imports, 'bogus' asylum seekers and animal rights 'fanatics'.

Because the responsibility lies with many of the animal farmers themselves, Animal Aid, the UK's largest animal rights organisation, is today calling on the NFU to make a public apology on their behalf.

It is time the NFU apologised for:

  • the suffering imposed upon the animal victims of the FMD cull
  • the environmental damage and pollution linked to the use of thousands of litres of disinfectant and the burning and burying of huge numbers of animals
  • the curtailment of people's freedom to enjoy the countryside
  • the fortune paid out by taxpayers in compensation
  • the heavy price paid by the tourist industry
  • the tarnishing of Britain's standing and reputation in the world.

You'll find enclosed with this letter, Animal Aid's 8-page Question & Answer guide to Foot and Mouth disease. This covers issues such as the compensation and subsidies paid to farmers; evidence relating to alleged subsidy scams and illegal animal movements during the present crisis; background to the vaccination question; and Animal Aid's views on the FMD slaughter policy and how it has been carried out.

We also invite you to view Animal Aid's new video, Choose Life - Go Veggie, which we will be taking to the streets of Britain so that the public - distressed by scenes of animals being ruthlessly killed and trashed under the FMD emergency measures - can see examples of the everyday animal suffering and chaos that are usually concealed behind the closed doors of farms and slaughterhouses. You can download this five minute film from Animal Aid's website.

Farmers have been seen weeping in public for the animal victims of the cull. But, it seems clear to us that their tears are not for the killed animals - farming is a killing business day-in-day-out. The tears are for the damage and disruption caused to their own businesses, notwithstanding the hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation farmers are receiving from British taxpayers.

Animal Aid's message to the NFU and to the public at large is that foot and mouth is a logical consequence of systems of farming that are massively cruel, oppressive and environmentally polluting. Producing meat for 60 million Britons can never be a smiley cottage industry. Having had the opportunity to witness the kind of brutal and incompetent treatment of farmed animals that is usually concealed from them, the public now see what they have been conditioned to accept as normal. They see what they are party to.

A great many people have pledged, as a consequence, to change to a humane diet. We celebrate that fact. We are not only doing all we can to encourage this trend but urge your members to take advantage of the commercial opportunities presented by this sea change in public sentiment.

For more background to Animal Aid's views on modern animal farming systems, the vegetarian/vegan diet and related issues, see our website.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Tyler
Director, Animal Aid

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact Yvonne Taylor or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • See the full background here.
  • We have an ISDN line for Broadcast-quality interviews.

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