This Disaster Need Not Have Happened; Farmer ROBIN PAGE (Right) Blames Politicians and Agricultural Bureaucrats for the Foot-and-Mouth Crisis

By Page, Robin | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

This Disaster Need Not Have Happened; Farmer ROBIN PAGE (Right) Blames Politicians and Agricultural Bureaucrats for the Foot-and-Mouth Crisis


Page, Robin, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: ROBIN PAGE

Farmer ROBIN PAGE (right) blames politicians and agricultural bureaucrats for the foot-and-mouth crisis

THE foot- and-mouth epidemic currently sweeping through the country will be the last straw for many farmers. We are now in danger of losing our rural culture completely. The tragedy, however, is not that foot and mouth is here, but that the epidemic need not have happened. Our politicians and farming bureaucrats simply do not learn. The message from BSE was that industrialised, over-intensive farming carries many dangers and the time had come to change.

Nothing changed.

However the disease arrived, it was subsequently trailed across the country by transporting animals unacceptable distances for slaughter - all because of "industrialised" farming. A Government that claims to be interested in animal welfare - particularly the welfare of 17,000 foxes - allows livestock to be carted hundreds of miles quite needlessly.

Thirty-three and a half million pigs, cattle and sheep are involved in this absurdity every year, and all the Government does is close down yet more slaughterhouses, so making the situation worse. Even more unacceptably, some cattle - herd animals - are mixed with animals from other herds during their journeys, causing them considerable distress.

This situation has been created by nonsensical European regulations that have seen the closure of 800 local slaughterhouses in the past 10 years. Once environmental health officers could monitor slaughterhouses; now vets have to be permanently on duty to monitor slaughterhouses that have been upgraded to ridiculous and expensive levels far beyond simple hygiene and cleanliness.

Farm livestock should not be faced with the stress of travelling long distances - they should be killed locally and the carcasses then transported.

The possibility of spreading any disease - swine fever, or foot and mouth - is then minimised.

Why were animals being carted from Northumberland to Essex?

Part of the answer lies in the power of the supermarkets which now dominate the meat market. They want huge slaughterhouses with high throughputs for "efficiency" and to reduce costs.

Interestingly, the Essex outbreak of foot and mouth was not far from Tesco's Cheshunt headquarters; Tesco will not tell me whether any of the meat from the Essex slaughterhouse was destined for its shelves.

One of the largest slaughterhouses in the country, St Meryn in Cornwall, is used by Tesco. Neither Tesco nor the slaughterhouse will tell me where their animals come from; locals claim that some cattle arrive from as far away as Scotland.

IT is odd that the Government takes no action, as the Minister for Agriculture Nick Brown and his underling Elliot Morley claim to be passionate about animal welfare.

Apparently foxhunting causes them immense distress, but trailing animals from one end of the country to the other worries them not at all. Perhaps that is why Nick Brown refers to "product", not animals, when he talks about livestock farming.

The man in charge of overseeing regulation, including livestock slaughter and transportation, is Lord Haskins. …

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