PETA would welcome foot-and-mouth outbreak:
Disease would mean animals would die 'more humanely'

April 4, 2001 The Ottawa Citizen by Kelly Cryderman
Leaders of the world's most vocal animal rights group say they hope foot-and-mouth disease infects North American herds because it means livestock would be shot and killed more quickly and less torturously than they usually are.

"If that hideousness came here, it wouldn't be any more hideous for the animals -- they are all bound for a ghastly death anyway. But it would wake up consumers," said Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"I openly hope that it comes here. It will bring economic harm only for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence."

Ms. Newkirk said an outbreak, which is being fought by Canadian authorities with disinfectant procedures and stringent import controls for European products, would be good for human health and the environment. Foot-and-mouth, a disease that affects pigs, cattle, sheep and other cloven hoof animals, does not regularly pose a threat to humans.

"With the spread of hoof-and-mouth, the cows and pigs will be humanely euthanized to stop the spread of the disease, and that is a far better end for an animal than a life of misery and suffering," said Sean Gifford, PETA vegan campaign co-ordinator. "The reason these modern plagues exist is that animals are treated worse than dirt. Today's factory farms are breeding houses for disease."

From the PETA base in Norfolk, Virginia, Mr. Gifford said it's "deathly cold" in Canada, and, as animals are taken to processing plants, they freeze to the inside walls of transport trucks with their own wastes and then "get ripped from the side of these trucks when they show up at slaughterhouses." Many of the animals are conscious during the slaughtering process because the processing lines move so fast, the animals are not effectively stunned beforehand, he says.

Since the disease was first reported in the U.K., Mr. Gifford said PETA phones have been ringing off the hook with people calling to ask for the group's vegetarian starter kit.

He said PETA believes it's wrong to eat meat in any case, and vegetarians live longer than meat eaters. The organization employs 130 people, has 700,000 members, revenues of $17 million. Although there is no Canadian office, Mr. Gifford said there are thousands of Canadian activists.

Len Goldberg, Ottawa's PETA representative, said "as twisted as it might sound at first blush, probably in the medium or the long term, (an outbreak) would be beneficial for Canada." He said the depressing part would be to see the animals suffer.

While it is true most animals affected by foot-and-mouth will recover from the disease within a month, the animals rarely recover their full productivity and young animals often die. Leaders of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN report that in virulent cases of the disease, animals suffer greatly -- "sickening mouth and feet lesions in cattle, pigs prostrated, sheep hobbling on knees, dead piglets, lambs, kids and calves." They say "consideration of animal welfare is yet another reason to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease."

Larry Campbell, assistant general manager at the Canadian Meat Council, which represents federally-inspected meat processing plants, calls PETA's statement's "ridiculous."

There would be several ramifications, he says, if the virus made it to Canada. The animals would suffer, farms built up over generations would be irreplaceably damaged, and Canada's $3-billion meat export market "would be wiped out immediately ... the ripple effect would be immense."

Mr. Campbell said that Canadian animals are rarely transported for several days and, in the winter, there are slats on the trucks that can be closed to keep the animals warmer.

"Any movement is stressful," he says, but animals are allowed to rest quietly for four to five hours after the journey, before the slaughtering process begins. Humane methods, approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, are used to kill pigs and cattle. Cattle are stunned with a captive bolt pistol, and pigs are stunned with gas or an electrical charge.

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