Friday, May 27, 2005

And thousands of cattle slaughtered

In China, thousands of cattle have been slaughtered at dairy farms outside Beijing in an effort to stop an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Here's the entire report.

Four million sheep and cows were slaughtered in Britan during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak. Was slaughter really necessary, when foot-and-mouth is not fatal to animals, and most recover within two weeks? "On animal and human health grounds, almost certainly not. 95% of animals will recover within 2 weeks with little or no treatment. There is virtually no risk to human health," says Abigail Woods, who is working on a Wellcome Trust funded research project on the history of animal plagues.
Slaughter as a means of FMD control entered almost by the back door, as it was applied to a small number of outbreaks in the 1910s during a period of relative disease freedom. The rationale here was to quickly stamp out the disease before it took hold. Only later, during the huge 1922-24 epidemic, was slaughter adopted as the normal policy, though in these years pedigree breeders were exempted and allowed to isolate their valuable herds.

Criticisms of slaughter have accompanied every outbreak of FMD in Britain and intensified following the discovery and continental application of a vaccine. However, economically speaking, slaughter is more justified today than at any point in the past, when only the interests of a select group of pedigree breeders were served by this policy. Then, farming productivity was not as important as it is today and the export market was markedly smaller and less valuable than at present. The irony is that Britain encouraged the world to impose import prohibitions upon potentially FMD infected products and now finds itself at the receiving end of this policy.

In short, slaughter wasn't necessary, isn't necessary, except on 'economic grounds'...


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