ALISTAIR McCONNACHIE on THE STATE'S "SLASH AND BURN" POLICY
In May 1996 I wrote an article "Mad Cows and Englishmen" which was
distributed widely at the time, and examined the sudden "Mad Cow" scare
which had hit the country, to hugely damaging effect.
It demonstrated that there was, and still is, no convincing evidence
whatsoever that BSE ("Mad Cow Disease") was linked to cattle feedstuffs
which had been partly derived from animal proteins, or that nvCJD in humans,
was in any way, linked to BSE.
It explained that BSE originated from the organo-phosphate chemicals which
had been used to treat warble fly in cattle - the same organo-phosphates
which are used in military nerve gas. NvCJD in humans was unrelated to
consumption of beef, and in many cases was directly related to human contact
The behaviour of the Government was an over-reaction based on a faulty
diagnosis. Millions of perfectly healthy animals were slaughtered and many
people lost their livelihoods. The present Foot and Mouth crisis has all the
hallmarks of another government over-reaction, which threatens the
livelihoods of thousands of people.
However, we can't blame farmers for taking whatever precautions they deem
necessary. Many farmers have worked all their lives to build herds - often
pedigree - of which they can be proud. The knowledge that an outbreak of FMD
on their farm would allow the State to move in and kill everything they own
and care for, is a horrifying thought. Many would be distraught.
So long as mass slaughter is government policy, then we need to be
sympathetic and understanding towards their plight.
MOVE TOWARDS A NATIONALLY-BASED POLICY
In the short term, the government should admit there is no reason to panic.
It should continue to work to contain the outbreak locally and it should
scale down the essentially unnecessary slaughter policy, which threatens the
livelihoods of thousands, and gives the false impression that the disease is
something worse than it really is.
In the long-term, it will be necessary to move towards a locally and
nationally based agricultural industry rather than an industry which is
dependent on export markets, and entirely at the mercy of the ups and downs
of the global marketplace.
In this regard, an excellent new book Localization - A Global Manifesto by
Colin Hines (London: Earthscan, 2000) posits the common sensical policy of
"maximum self-reliance rather than today's fetishism of international
competitiveness" (Colin Hines, "The New Protectionism", The Ecologist,
2001, pp. 44-45).
It argues that everything that can be produced within a nation or region,
should be. Long distance trade is then used properly for exchanging that
which cannot be produced nationally or regionally. "Beggar your neighbour"
trade is replaced by "better your neighbour" trade. "Protect the local,
globally" is the rallying cry.
Such a policy will rebuild the rural economy, free it from dependence on the
export trade and provide the long-term markets at home which will enable the
industry to weather its occasional crisis.
The same arguments are also used by Michael Rowbotham in the ground-breaking
work, The Grip of Death: A study of modern money, debt slavery and
destructive economics (Oxford: Jon Carpenter Pub., 1998).