Even Newer Muckspreader 14/01/02
The media were quick to report the government's claim that Britain was now officially foot-and-mouth free, three months after the last officially admitted case of FMD on September 30. What they did not seem so quick to ask was why, on September 30, DEFRA was reporting the total number of animals killed as 3,905,000; yet, just before announcing that Britain was now FMD-free, it was giving the figure as 4,063,000 (this has since risen to 4,073,000).. Why it should have been necessary to kill another 158,000 animals during a period when officially the disease had been eradicated is just another of those mysteries which continue to mount up around one of the greatest government cock-ups on record.
At least animal rights activists in Wales have unwittingly helped to highlight another mystery of this sorry story. The Wales Alliance Against Cruel Sports has instructed its members, as the lambing season gets under way, to tramp the Welsh hills searching out any lambs which look poorly. If they think the case seems sufficiently serious, they are instructed to take the animal to a vet and send the bill to one of the Welsh farming unions. Not surprisingly, the unions have pointed out that, to take lambs away from their ewes in this way could be an act of considerable cruelty both to the lambs and their mothers, which might well develop mastitis from not having a lamb to take their milk. Quite apart from which it would be an act of theft. Not that this would bother the animal rights fanatics. But it may remind us of one of the odder features of last year's animal holocaust: namely the extraordinary silence of the animal rights brigade during those months when one in eight of all the farm animals in Britain were being put to death, many in conditions of horrendous cruelty.
From every affected part of the country stories poured in of animals being killed by Maffia death squads in flagrant breach of animal welfare laws. Lambs had their brains beaten out against stone walls, piglets were being smashed to death with shovels as they were born, men in overalls were charging round fields blazing away at cattle with shotguns. Every day, for weeks on end, the number of criminal breaches of the 1994 Animal Welfare Regulations probably ran into thousands. Yet, faced with the most blatant act of mass-cruelty to animals this country has ever seen, the serried ranks of bunnyhuggers, anti-vivisection campaigners and battle-scarred veterans of the protests against cramming lambs into cross-Channel ferries - not to mention those hundreds of MPs clamouring for an end to the barbarous practice of hunting with dogs - uttered not a murmur of protest.
After several months of this government-sponsored savagery, the RSPCA at last took desultory interest in what was going on, even at one point claiming that it was "investigating 60 cases of reported cruelty". But the only case which ever looked like a serious runner, following a threatened private prosecution, was the slaughterman filmed in Monmouthshire taking pot shots at sheep. The RSPCA reluctantly agreed to take over the prosecution but, just before it reached court, our leading champions of animal welfare decided to drop the case. FMD may have been one of the darkest blots on the record of the Blair government. But for the way it exposed their sheer spineless hypocrisy, our animal rights campaigners were not far behind.