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The following letter published in the Scottish Farmer illustrates the damage which the live export trade is doing to the public image of farming. Farmers must avoid being portrayed as supporting, even by their silence, the live export market. Live exports must end. Of course, this means that farmers will need to be compensated for any loss of earnings. Their strategy must be to argue for new markets to be built upon the principles of Localisation and Food Sovereignty, just as they argue for financial compensation and subsidies -- better termed, "support mechanisms" -- to enable farming to move this way.

The Scottish Farmer
27 July 2002, p. 8.

Sir: On Monday, July 15, live lamb exports to Europe resumed from the port of Dover. It is now widely known among farmers and animal welfarists that a most uncertain fate awaits these poor animals in the slaughterhouses of some Mediterranean countries.

At the time of Muslim festivals, tens of thousands of sheep end up having their throats cut open then left to die, choking on their own blood. In France in particular, these acts are carried out openly, with no intervention by the authorities.

One would expect the most vociferous opponents of this horrific trade to be the "caring" farmers who bring these animals in to the world; the farmers who wept in front of the television cameras as their animals were being put down during the foot-and-mouth epidemic; the farmers who were, in some cases, paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation but could no longer afford to feed their dogs.

Strangely enough, this does not appear to be the case, as the NFU chief livestock adviser, Kevin Pearce, slammed animal welfare societies for calling for an end to live exports (The Scottish Farmer, 20.7.02). Mr Pierce suggested that the welfare lobby would serve its principles better if it targeted those EU member states with poor welfare records.

Here we have the National Farmers' Union admitting on the one hand, that farm animal welfare in some EU countries leaves something to be desired, on the other hand, they are sending their helpless animals into what can be conditions of appalling cruelty in the name of profit.

If there are farmers out there who feel that live exports should stop, the sooner they speak out the better. After all, they do their case, when appealing for public sympathy, no good whatsoever by keeping quiet.

John Williamson, Wyvis Croft, Heights of Fodderty, Strathpeffer.

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