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shot cattle

Alistair McConnachie examines the issues at stake in the Foot and Mouth Scandal. This article was published in "This Green and Unpleasant Land" a Sovereignty Special Report free with the April 2001 issue.

Leaving aside the fact that animals with a curable illness are being killed, and perfectly healthy animals are also being killed, it's the case that many have been killed in conditions of chaos which are in flagrant abuse of the guidelines.

For example, Sovereignty has been passed photographs (right and below) of over 60 cattle killed with a rifle from the back of a moving pick-up at a specific farm in Cumbria. The bodies litter the fields and the tyre tracks are clearly visible around the animals' bodies. It's hard to believe these circumstances can possibly be legal. But then again, it's hard to believe that any of this is happening, today, in our society.


The rural and tourist industries are losing billions because people are, understandably, scared to move. They don't want to spread the disease. However, it is not the disease itself which scares people, but rather the draconian response of the authorities to the presence of the disease.

If we have a draconian slaughter policy we cannot expect people to feel comfortable moving about the countryside.

If there were no death sentence there would be no fear of the disease, or of it spreading.

If there were no slaughter there would be no scare. It would be just like any other livestock disease - which the public never hears about and doesn't care about.

We are witnessing the State coming onto people's property and saying in effect: "I am here to take your property, and after I've taken it, I'm gonna kill it. And if you try to stop me then I'm gonna push you out the way. And if you get angry then I will arrest you." Indeed, if the State can march onto our property and destroy our life's work in this way then we need to ask, "Do we really own anything?"

The main fuel for the pyres is coal, and railway sleepers (containing oil and bitumen). The smoke plumes contain particles which can cause asthma and heart disease. They contain carcinogenic particles (PAHs, Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons), and carcinogenic dioxins, which are also hormone disrupters. The pyres are creating more pollution than all the factories in the UK according to the Independent on Sunday 22-4-01. Moreover, the burial of these animals risks polluting the soil, ground water, springs, rivers, reservoirs, coastal waters and our drinking water.

Below: Alistair McConnachie and Carolyn Hoffe, who attempted to shelter her 5 healthy Zwartble pet sheep in her living room. On the evening of 4 May 2001 they were killed after police and MAFF forced their way into her house.

Carolyn Hoffe

The abuse of authority affects us all. If the State can walk onto a farmer's property and destroy his animals, his livelihood, and his life's work then it can walk into your home and destroy whatever you care for. The State is engaged in a gross abuse of its authority.

Many smaller farmers could be driven to the wall by this slaughter policy. The land could be taken over by bigger and bigger farms, or by agri-businesses, and by corporate interests. That raises issues around corporate control of the land and the food supply.

Anyone who wants to see a move to localisation, that is local production for local consumption, could use this issue to highlight the risks of globalisation such as the dangers of dependence on the export markets, and the problems of increasing corporate control of the land and the food supply.

Anti-globalisation protestors could advocate the development of Farmers Markets which can exploit domestic demand as an alternative to relying on the export markets.

One of the most concerning aspects of the slaughter policy is the restriction of movement which this policy demands, both voluntary and involuntary.

- Restrictions upon livestock movement mean animals are floundering in legally imposed conditions which would normally be regarded as cruel.
- The D-Notice restrictions severely inhibit people from moving around their own premises and the local area. The justification is to stop disease: Where does that end? It is almost equivalent to Martial Law, even though there has been no Emergency Procedures passed in Parliament.
- Self-imposed restrictions are followed, to an extent, because we don't want to be blamed for spreading the disease.

However, it's not really the disease itself which we're afraid of spreading, it's the death sentence which is imposed upon any animals with, or near, the disease. If there were no slaughter then there would be no scare, and we would all feel free to move normally again. The countryside would truly reopen for business.

Furthermore, if the virus is spread by humans then that's proof that we should not be slaughtering, because if it's that easy to spread, then everything is going to end up dead - if we continue this slaughter policy.

Remember the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind? There's a scene where a group of people is being held in the back of a van, which is travelling past Devil's Tower mountain in Wyoming. They're all wearing gas masks because they've been told that the area has been infected with poison gas. Outside the van, the area is swarming with men in white suits and gas masks, and guns. They're disinfecting the area, turning back cars, and preventing access.

The lead character in the back of the van becomes suspicious. He pulls off his gas mask and takes a deep breath. In a second, he realises the air is clean, and there's nothing to fear. The whole set-up is an elaborate hoax to prevent people from entering the area and finding out what's actually happening around the mountain. So, he bursts out the van and makes his break for freedom.

Well, it's time to take our gas masks off. It's time we lost our fear of this disease. It's time to face the facts, which are these: this is a disease from which almost all animals would recover; after recovery the animals would be immune to that strain of the infection; there is no risk to human health from the disease itself; the meat is fit to eat; and vaccination can be used to hasten the end of the disease.

Therefore, the very least we should be demanding is :

  • an immediate stop to the slaughter of healthy animals.
  • vaccination to be made available.
  • a reassessment of the policy of killing animals with an illness from which almost all would recover anyway.

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