by Anne-Marie Williams.
The reactions to the Foot and Mouth crisis are a sad
reminder of the ease with which life can be disregarded
once it has been defined as being a menace. Sheep all
around the United Kingdom are being slaughtered in order
to prevent the spread of the Foot and Mouth virus. This
slaughter could be perhaps considered reasonable if
it were a measure taken solely against sick animals,
but alas, perfectly healthy animals are also killed
in what has become a sheep holocaust.
Firstly the sheep
fall victim to this virus, secondly the entire sheep population
is designated as posing a threat, the result is that all
risk being killed, whether or not they are ill. This is
a classic example of the destruction of what is considered
impure, the life of the impure has no value, unless of
course we mention economic value. For every sheep killed,
whether it has the virus or otherwise, the British government
pays compensation to the sheep's owner. This is all very
well, except that this measure incites farmers to slaughter
entire healthy herds, simply because it is economically
more viable than keeping them alive. It is also due to
economic factors that the sheep are not vaccinated against
the threatening virus, it is less costly and an easier
option to kill the animals.
Great Britain was once considered a kingdom of animal lovers,
unfortunately animal lovers seem to be rather particular
when choosing the object of their affections, and once
those animals risk being ill or impure, the only solution
seems to be their slaughter.Once
these healthy sheep have been slaughtered do they enter
the human food chain? Is the meat obtained distributed
to those in need? Certainly not! On the contrary the sheep
are now burnt. In essence, healthy animals are killed
for absolutely no reason, except of course the fact that
it is economically more viable for farmers, and no doubt
such measures reassure the public that the British government
is actively finding solutions.
Paul Harris, Sunday october 7, 2001, The Observer.
Criminal gangs are making millions of pounds from the
sale of highly contaminated meat that is putting the
lives of thousands of people at risk, police have revealed.
Officers from at least five forces have launched joint
investigations with environmental health officials into
the illicit trade of 'laundering' meat destined for
the pet food industry or destruction.
There is evidence the mass slaughter of animals due
to the foot and mouth epidemic has led to an increase
in unfit meat being passed back into the human food chain.
Authorities said rotting and diseased carcasses are
bought cheaply and then 'laundered' back into the human
food chain. Gangs cut off rotting sections of meat,
including cancerous growths and abscesses, and sometimes
dye the meat white again by soaking it in a bucket of
salt water and a non-toxic dose of bleach.
The Observer has learnt that police and health officials have launched
investigations in Lancashire, Hampshire, Wales, Norfolk
and Derbyshire to unmask the gangs behind the trade.
The criminals obtain false documentation that will
claim the meat is legitimate. They make deliveries at
weekends or at night to avoid health inspectors. The
unfit meat can contain bacteria such as campylobacter
and salmonella, potentially lethal food poisons.
Last month police and environmental health officials
raided a Norfolk farm and found nine tons of rotting
meat, including two dead foxes. The farm had no hot
water, the meat still bore traces of fur, and rat droppings
littered the floor.
The meat was not fit for pet food, but inspectors believe
it was destined for the dinner table. 'I have never
seen anything like it in 40 years of food hygiene enforcement,'
said Granville Smith, chief environmental health officer
for South Norfolk.
Meat scheduled for pet food can be bought for as little
as 30p per pound, but if doctored and sold back into
the human food chain it can fetch as much as £2
per pound. One Rotherham gang netted several millions
in three years.
'There is a lot of money to be made,' said Yunes Teinaz, a senior
environmental health officer in Haringey, London. Teinaz's
team has made 30 confiscations in the last four months
and obtained 21 court orders ordering unfit meat to be destroyed.
One target of the illegal meat traders is halal butchers, whose network of small family-owned shops
is run by owners with little formal trading.
A new campaign, spearheaded by London's Regent's Park
mosque, has been launched to help traders and consumers
spot unfit meat. Leaflets will be distributed and mosque
sermons will be used to spread the message.
Public health officials believe the trade in potentially
lethal meat will become more widespread following government
plans to privatise meat inspection.