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[Duurzaamlijst] Vandana Shiva on FMD
On 21 Apr 2001, at 7:27, ngin wrote:
Norfolk Genetic Information Network (ngin),
Our Food: Our Future. - Free Food Fair
TODAY - Saturday 21st April
Earlham Park, Norwich, from 2-11pm
Vandana Shiva and an alternative view of Foot and Mouth Disease
Unholy mess: Britain should take lessons from India on how to deal
with the problem of foot and mouth disease, argues Vandana Shiva
Manchester Guardian, Wednesday
By Vandana Shiva
April 4, 2001
In Britain, we see the army mobilised to kill a million or more farm
animals and bury them in mass graves merely because of a
that they might be carrying a disease that is neither fatal to humans
nor animals. In India, the cow is held sacred, and from my
philosophical and religious perspective, parallels can be drawn with
ethnic cleansing in Serbia and the blowing up of the Bamiyan
by the Taliban in Afghanistan. This war against farm animals
the insanity of those who promote globalised, industrialised food
systems which create, promote and spread disease, but who
simultaneously want a "disease free national herd".
This zero tolerance for disease has led to a zero tolerance for
animals. Farm animals and farmers have been made the "endemic" enemy.
The countryside has been turned into a war zone. Just as the silent
Buddhas had to be demolished for a false sense of security and pride
by the Taliban, so our hoofed neighbours are being slaughtered and
burnt for a false sense of security and safety by the British
government. Animals are killed on the basis of unjustified
exaggeration of the impact of foot and mouth disease, which has been
called a "fearful plague", "a demon", "a serial killer" and a predator
But, as we know, FMD is actually quite harmless, though highly
contagious. It does not harm humans, and it only rarely kills animals.
The virus takes a toll on productivity, but not generally of life. The
disease lowers milk production and reduces the working ability of
animals. In a month they recover. Animals can, however, die of other
diseases like haemorrhagic septicaemia when their immunity has been
lowered by FMD. In India, 400 animals have died in the past couple of
months not of FMD but haemorrhagic septicaemia, which infects the
throat and blocks the respiratory tract.
FMD is endemic to India, and used to be in Europe. It has been
traditionally treated through indigenous veterinary medicine. Vaccines
are also available and have been used. Nowhere in the world have
entire herds been exterminated.
In India, we hold cattle sacred, because without them we could not
renew our soil fertility.
Ecologically, the cow has been central to Indian civilisation. Both
materially and conceptually, Indian agriculture has built its
sustainability on maintaining the integrity of the cow, considering
her inviolable and sacred, seeing her as the mother of the prosperity
of food systems.
The integration of livestock with farming has been the secret of
sustainable agriculture. Livestock perform a critical function in the
food chain by converting organic matter into a form that can be easily
used by plants. Can you imagine a British agricultural minister
saying, as KM Munshi, India's first agriculture minister after
independence, did: "The mother cow and the Nandi are not worshipped in
vain. They are the primeval agents who enrich the soil -nature's great
land transformers - who supply organic matter which, after treatment,
becomes nutrient matter of the greatest importance. In India,
tradition, religious sentiment and economic needs have tried to
maintain a cattle population large enough to maintain the cycle, only
if we know it."
The sanctity of the cow as a source of prosperity in agriculture was
linked to the need for conserving its integration with crop
production. By using crop wastes and uncultivated land, indigenous
cattle do not compete with man for food; rather, they provide organic
fertiliser for fields and thus enhance food productivity. Within the
sacredness of the cow therefore, lies this ecological rationale and
There are three aspects to the reaction of the FMD epidemic that make
me terribly uneasy.
First, while it is clear that globalisation of trade and increased
movement of animals has spread the disease, the UK government
continues to support increased liberalisation of agricultural trade in
the World Trade Organisation. The half million livestock being killed
are a ritual sacrifice to the gods of global markets. Shutting the
countryside down while keeping borders open to trade will not prevent
spread of disease - either coming in through imports or going out
Second, the export obsession that is an intrinsic part of
globalisation also leads to a blindness to the welfare of animals and
farmers. Thousands of livestock can be annihilated, hundreds of
farmers ruined to maintain the "vaccine free" status of exports.
Neither the farmers nor farm animals count in the calculus of free
trade. That is why farmers are committing suicide in thousands in
India, and animals are being killed in thousands in the UK.
Third, the same agencies that refuse to act in the public interest on
issues of food safety related to GMOs are willing to cull farm animals
infected by a non-fatal disease.
These are double standards. On the basis of the precautionary
principle, the UK government should ban GMOs instead of killing
harmless animals if it is concerned about safety of food and
The crisis in the UK should make us all think more seriously about
globalisation of food and agriculture. We need to explore what is the
most reliable way to produce safe food, protect human and animal
health, build immunity and resilience in our farming. The crisis needs
a systems response, not military operations.
The problem is not the occurrence of disease and infection, but
vulnerability to it. The very idea of disease-free animals and
disease-free people fuels the appetite for genetic engineering. It
decreases our levels of tolerance and resilience. It breeds fear,
anxiety and paranoia - the kind of fear that is moving the military
might of Britain to declare a war against its hoofed inhabitants.
This paranoia suits the genetic engineering industry perfectly. By
exterminating farm animals, the option of small organic farms is
eroded. By creating a fear of disease, a new market is created for
Dolly, and Polly and Tracy and all their clones.
We should stop this war against farm animals. Without them we will
never be able to build a sustainable farming future.
Dr Vandana Shiva, a physicist and ecologist, has in India established
Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers'
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