The quest for cheap meat has wrought a high cost for the European Union’s farmers as unnatural farming practices see mother nature wreak her revenge.The policy of feeding cows with pulverised protein food which included animal brains and bones quite obviously had disastrous consequences – BSE. This disease and the discovery that it can to pass to humans as nCJD (new variant Creuzfeld Jacob Disease), has given rise to a dramatic drop in beef sales. According to the latest statistics released by the European Commission, concerning sales of beef in the last six months, they are down 50% in Germany, 42% in Italy, 35% in Spain, 30% in Greece and Luxembourg, 25% in Portugal, 20% in France, 15% in Austria and 10% in Belgium. To note, the increase in the United Kingdom by 3%, the only country to consume more beef after the BSE crisis was announced in Europe. British public opinion is firmly in favour of the national meat and imports from the continent of Europe are traditionally regarded with suspicion. Now with Foot and Mouth Disease sweeping Europe, questions are being asked as to what is safe to eat, if anything. The current outbreak of Pan Asia 0 strain of the disease has opened the door to discussion into how best to control it. Current EU policy seems more Medieval than rational, with hundreds of thousands of animals which have the disease, or are considered possibly to have it, being killed. In many cases, healthy herds of animals are destroyed. In the United Kingdom alone, it is reported that 114,000 animals have been destroyed with a further 30,000 waiting. Last week there were reports that 500,000 sheep were to be killed, or culled, a word used to describe the clinical killing of animals in such circumstances. Farmers in the EU are discussing the policy of vaccination, which is what happens in southern Africa, the farmers there having a more natural reaction to the disease, living with it instead of running terrified away from it. The current virus was transported into Europe from northern India, where it started to spread in the early 1990s. The main source of contagion is through living animals but it can also be transported in fresh, smoked or cured meats and in unpasteurised lactic products, in the air, in mail, in boats or by wild animals. Given that this disease is not fatal anyway, the panic reaction by EU farmers reminds one of the reaction to Bubonic Plague in the 14th Century. Many now defend a more local production instead of pan-continental meat importation policies which necessarily tend to cut costs – and quality control. If this means that farming practices are to become more natural and more healthy, even if more expensive, the consumers of today would breathe a sigh of relief. Nobody wants to eat a chicken which has gone from egg to the supermarket shelf in just three weeks, being force-fed with high protein powders and eating even its own excrement in “total cycle” battery farms. The same sort of processes take place with cows, pigs and sheep. In many places one sees animals grazing on green fields but due to the fact that the natural feeding process takes so much longer for an animal to reach maturity, these animals walk in the fields but eat protein feeds in the barn at night. The consequences of altering the laws of nature, whether in animal feeding habits or through genetically modified cereals will always have consequences. Man cannot cheat nature and if he persists in this policy, nature will eliminate the species as an element dangerous to the continuation of its biosphere.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON