Animal Aid

FOOT AND MOUTH - Open letter

Posted 26 March 2001
Dead cow

An open letter to Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister

March 26, 2001

Dear Mr Brown

The Foot and Mouth outbreak points to much that is wrong with modern commercial farming, transportation and slaughter that should provide lessons for the future.

There are also immediate and serious animal welfare concerns regarding the conduct of the mass slaughter now being implemented.

In particular, there is evidence to indicate that some animals, having been shot with stunning guns, are recovering consciousness and experiencing their own slow deaths piled up with their fellows.

The gun used in most cases fires a retractable bolt - it is a stunning, rather than a killing, device and is used to render animals insensible. It is the use of a pithing rod, inserted in the hole made by the bolt to terminally damage the brain, or throat-cutting, that actually kills the animals.

Even in slaughterhouses, with their systems of pens and boxes, animals are frequently improperly stunned and therefore could be conscious when sticking takes place. On farms under the present conditions, there is even greater probability that there will be widespread failures in stunning. Reports from farmers suggest this is indeed happening.

By law, to ensure a clean kill on farms, a pithing rod has to be used. Recent television news footage showed clearly that this was not the case. It was also clear that animals are being killed in the sight of their fellows - a practice prohibited in slaughterhouses because of the distress it causes.

A particular concern relates to the army's involvement in the rapid burial of hundreds of thousands of sheep in a disused Cumbria airstrip. There is the real and horrifying prospect of animals regaining consciousness and being buried alive.

The undersigned are aware of the economic concerns generated by the FMD outbreak and the desire for haste. It should be remembered, however, that the animals are not the guilty parties but the innocent victims of this whole crisis.

They deserve maximum consideration - and we demand it on their behalf and on behalf of the British public, who have been distressed and appalled by the animal suffering they have witnessed.

This crisis must also provide the impetus for a comprehensive debate about welfare and hygiene standards on Britain's farms. The use of intensive production systems, long distance transportation and livestock markets have to be brought to an end. The last two have clearly played a part in the rapid spread of this disease - and modern animal production systems, in general, are responsible for the creation and spread of other, increasingly virulent diseases, some of which seriously threaten human and animal health.

Yours sincerely

Les Ward, Director Advocates for Animals
Andrew Tyler, Director Animal Aid
(tel 01732 364 546)
Peter Stevenson, Political and Legal Director, Compassion in World Farming
Andrew Butler, UK representative People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Juliet Gellatley, Director VIVA! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals)

Notes to Editors

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