Foot and mouth disease: another crisis for agribusiness

THE RECENT outbreak of the highly infectious viral “foot and mouth disease” has discredited British farming and agribusiness once again.

Amrita Huggins

Intensive, profit-geared agricultural policies have left a trail of destruction in the farming business, from salmonella and e.coli to the long-running BSE/CJD scandal.

The foot and mouth outbreak is just another symptom of an ailing, inadequate system of food production and distribution.

The outbreak stemmed from the horrific conditions in which factory-farmed pigs are kept. Vets described the source of the outbreak, Burnside farm in Northumberland, as an ideal breeding ground for the disease because of the cramped conditions and appalling hygiene standards; among them reports of rotting carcasses lying alongside live pigs.

The disease may have spread as the pigs were transported across the country to Cheal Meats abattoirs in Essex for slaughter.

Two-thirds of abattoirs have closed since the BSE crises due to inspection costs, this has led to a shortage of local abattoirs and to the practice of transporting animals, often under unhygienic and stressful conditions.

Government bodies and inspectorates such as MAFF (ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food) are very limited. This is shown by their failure to identify the Burnside farm as a hazard, despite inspections in December and January. These organisations consistently put the interests of agribusiness before our health and the welfare of livestock.

We need an independent inspectorate, controlled, elected and accountable to working-class people to ensure the food we eat is safe and is produced humanely. In the last century, farming under capitalism led to a huge increase in food production due to new techniques and technology, but at the expense of the environment, food safety and quality.

Moreover intensive farming has led to chronic overproduction of food in the European Union, creating a surplus which is stored at great expense whilst famine still haunts neo-colonial countries.

This is just one example of the wastage inherent in the capitalist system.

A socialist plan of production would ensure that food is produced according to our needs whilst protecting the environment and not for profit.

This can only be possible on the basis of democratic working-class control of the economy and society, on a worldwide scale.