Caring about Animals in the Era of Foot and Mouth

On British television recently, a tearful farmer spoke of the fact that his sheep were being shot to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease: "We’re so sorry to see our lambs die – they should be the symbol of spring, of new life. But now they die due to this awful disease.” Total hypocrisy.

Before you start weeping in sympathy with the farmer, ask yourself one question: what would have been the fate of the lambs if there had been no outbreak of foot and mouth disease? The farmer would have taken these little symbols of spring away from their mothers, packed them into trucks, and sent them to slaughter. The symbol of new life would become dead meat. Then the farmer would have happily banked the cheque he was paid for doing this. (He'll still get a cheque, since farmers are compensated by government for animals shot to contain the outbreak.)

The lambs may have lost out on a few weeks of life, but they were also spared the distress of separation from their mothers, the misery of transportation, possibly for hundreds of kilometres, and the crowding and terror of the slaughterhouse.

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