1. Sacrificial lambs on Europe's altar of capital
2. Another view: FMD - don't minimize its severity
* * *
1. Sacrificial lambs on Europe's altar of capital
by Naomi Klein - Globe and Mail 07/03/2001, Canada (Online)
ngin comment: Generally good article - great imagery! - but the point near the end about "organic niche marketing" misses the point, understandably perhaps from across the pond, as organics have gone mainstream in Europe.
* * *
The Taliban destroys 2,000-year-old Buddha statues and we rightly shake our heads: How barbaric in these modern times to sacrifice graven images at the altar of religious purity. And yet, while Buddhas are bombed in Afghanistan, the European Union is engaged in its own quasi-biblical leansing ritual: the fiery sacrifice of tens of thousands of animals to appease the hungry gods of free-market economics.
When I first heard the farm animals described as capital's sacrificial lambs (it was German environmentalist Mathias Greffrath who said it to me), I thought it was hyperbole. Surely those hillsides were burning to protect public health, not the market value of meat or future access to foreign markets.
More than 50,000 animals are being or have already been killed in Britain, with another 10,000 marked for death. In Germany, where I've been visiting this week (studiously avoiding meat, which, let me tell you, isn't easy in a country known for menu items such as "meat with meat sauce"), 1,500 sheep have been destroyed. There was no evidence of infection - simply a chance that the animals might have come in contact with foot-and-mouth disease.
Some of this, of course, has to do with health, but not all of it. Foot-and-mouth disease is of little heath risk to humans, and we can't get it through food. The disease can be cured quickly in animals with proper medicines and quarantines, then prevented with vaccination.
Where the virus takes its true toll is on the market. And the market demands grand gestures to restore faith in its systems. Make no mistake: A system is on trial in Europe's latest food scare. When a highly contagious virus such as foot-and-mouth enters the food chain, it forces consumers to think about how our food gets to the table. Polite phrases such as "integration,""homogenization" and "high intensity" suddenly take on graphic meaning.
The process of assessing the safety of each bite rudely yanks back the curtain of packaging and exposes massive factory farms and abattoirs, huge warehouses, the mega-chain supermarkets, and the long distances that animals travel in crowded trucks and boats in between each of these links in the industrial farming chain. It increasingly seems that what is on trial in Europe is the tyranny of "economies of scale" that governs every aspect of food production, distribution and consumption: seed companies, factory farms, supermarkets and fast-food outlets.
In each of these areas, the players follow the familiar formula of lowering their costs by consolidating and expanding operations, then using their clout to press suppliers to meet their terms. Not only does this recipe hurt small farmers and cut down on the variety of foods available, it's also a time bomb when it comes to disease. Concentration means viruses spread quickly through large numbers of animals, while globalization ensures they are carried far and wide. Which is why Germany's agricultural minister is talking about new subsidies to help 20 per cent of the country's farms turn organic. And why British Prime Minister Tony Blair is making noises about loosening the grip of the big supermarket chains.
It's also why those hoping to barrel ahead with genetically modified foods are no doubt watching all this with dismay. This latest food scare could well be the decisive opportunity for which anti-GMO campaigners have been waiting. After all, the most immediate danger posed by GM crops is the way in which altered seeds are carried by the wind, mixing with unaltered ones. Yet it has been tough to get the public interested in this subtle and invisible threat to biodiversity.
That's why groups such as Greenpeace have tended to focus their campaigns more on potential dangers to public health, which, though more accessible, are less scientific. But foot-and-mouth disease, which is spread through the air, now has much of Europe thinking about microbes and wind, about how connected the food supply is, how difficult it is to control any particle, no matter how small, once it has entered the system. "So be a vegetarian," some are saying."Go organic."
The Financial Times editors insist that "phasing out intensive agriculture is too glib an answer," and propose more "consumer choice." Somehow, I doubt that Europe's food-safety crisis will be solved this time with more organic niche marketing. After more than a decade of debates about mad-cow disease, E. coli, GMOs and now foot-and-mouth, food safety is ceasing to be a health issue, or a consumer issue, and becoming an economic issue, one questioning the most basic bigger-is-better assumptions of industrial agriculture. It's about shaken faith - in science, in industry, in politics, in experts. The markets may be satisfied with their sacrificial lambs, but I think the public may demand more lasting measures.
Copyright (c) 2001 Globe Interactive
* * *
3. FMD - don't minimize its severity - An alternative view
From:- John Whiting, Diatribal Press, London
. . . If the FMD virus is not a killer of either animals or humans and is endemic in many parts of the world anyway, why are these draconian measures necessary? We all accept that in the case of serious threats to human health from BSE, TB and Brucellosis etc drastic measures are necessary (and not always very effective!). But there is no health risk with FMD; there is only an economic one.
The answer to FMD control, whatever it may be, should not depend on minimizing its severity. Farmers who permitted it to run its course unchecked would be angrily - and rightly - picketed by animal rights campaigners. Nor is immunization, in its present state of development, a viable answer. It this moment in time, as Nixon was so fond of saying, it is a problem without a solution.
The following is a posting from a woman who, with her vet husband, runs one of the oldest and best free range deer farms in Scotland. As a supporter of fully sustainable agriculture, her credentials are impeccable.
From: Nicola Fletcher
Clinical effects of Foot-and-Mouth Disease
Don’t read this too close to mealtimes...
It strikes us as really odd that so many people seem to imply that FMD is not a serious disease and that somehow it is not an animal welfare issue. It also strikes us how few vets have been asked to comment, also how media pictures focus on burning pyres rather than pictures of miserable drooling animals so lame they are unable stand up to hobble into the slaughtering crate (pers. comm. from Longtown outbreak).
This week’s (March 3rd) Veterinary Record has a paper from Pirbright indicating that the current strain is a particularly virulent one which seems to have outclassed other FMD strains.
Below is a précis - checked by John - from Blood & Henderson’s "Veterinary Medicine" (I know, what a name!), and "Pathology of Domestic Animals" by Judd and Kennedy:
FMD varies from species to species. But they can indeed recover. B&H say that overall mortality in adults is 2% but up to 20% in young stock. Cattle suffer worst. Herds rapidly get 100% morbidity (infection) and in severe strains can suffer up to 50% mortality. When cattle get FMD they start with a high temperature, loss of appetite and severe dejection, followed by acute painful stomatitis. They salivate copiously, saliva hanging in long ropey strings. Vesicles (blisters) appear in the mouth and on the tongue, rupturing within 24 hrs leaving a raw painful surface which heals after about two weeks. Secondary infections can also occur though these can betreated. Vesicles also appear on the feet, especially in the clefts and on the coronet. Rupture of the vesicles causes acute discomfort and the animal is grossly lame, often recumbent and often with painful swelling. Secondary bacterial infection can interfere with healing and lead to severe involvement of the deep structures of the foot. Vesicles may occur on the teats and severe mastitis can follow. Convalescence may be as long as six months. Young calves are more susceptible than adults and heavy mortality can occur without lesions being present. There is much variation in the virulence of the infection and there is a malignant form of the disease.
A sequel to FMD in cattle is a chronic syndrome which includes anaemia, dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing), overgrowth of hair and lack of heat tolerance (panting). A form of diabetes has also been observed as a sequel in cattle.
In sheep, goats and pigs (but as already reported, 25% of the pigs in Taiwan died in 1997; that was reported recently in the Veterinary Record) the disease is usually mild and is really only important because of its transmission to cattle. Severe lameness can occur though, and lambs and sucking pigs being more susceptible, may suffer heavy mortality. The greatest danger here is that in adults it is all over so quickly that it goes unnoticed, eg in hill sheep. Pigs are the most efficient at spreading FMD but once any species no longer shows any symptoms it can still excrete the virus. Hedgehogs, coypu, many rodents and wild ruminants are susceptible and may provide reservoirs for domestic animals. Meat and milk and uncooked products of these can carry FMD. Freezing does not kill it though high temperatures will.
Lack of productivity manifests itself in many ways which have been discussed elsewhere, as have the problems associated with vaccination.
I hope this answers some of your questions. John has volunteered his services to MAFF’s State Veterinary Service and is about to be seconded, probably down to England, so I may be able to pass on first hand accounts before very long, sadly. If they are dramatically different to the above I will report back.
I’m not quite sure what the government would be covering up here. Unlike BSE there is a very long history of experience of and research into FMD and its effects on humans and animals. Human infection really does not seem to be much of an issue; it is the transmission to cattle and pigs as a result of infected meat and milk being spread around which is. If an effective vaccination programme could be developed then this would indeed be marvellous. The NYT article sounded as though there might be hope for the future. But at the moment things aren’t great. And of course, as with most things, there are aspects we can and should question, check facts, and then criticise and/or demand action if justified. In that order. Several vets in the "real world" have expressed concern over the lack of up-to-date information and apparent lack of urgency from MAFF. But no-one is implying a cover-up, just an underfunded cock-up. One is almost tempted to make a cheap jibe about legacies and Thatcher’s Major Years......