Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bad news in old terminology...

To add to Great Britain's farm miseries, a new disease with the charming common name of "bluetongue" has appeared along with a sixth case of foot-and-mouth.
Britain's deputy chief veterinarian Fred Landeg told British television stations on Saturday that a cow on a cattle and sheep farm near Ipswich, Suffolk, northeast of London, tested positive for bluetongue.

The cow was to be slaughtered, other animals on the farm tested to see if they were also infected, and restrictions put in place at the site, Landeg and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall told BBC television that bluetongue "is definitely not as serious as foot-and-mouth but it is of major concern to us," as it is one more disease to deal with.

He said the disease is carried by insects like midges and is not transferred from animal to animal. [More]

Although this story is unfolding painfully slower than the 2001 FMD epidemic, the stubborn reappearance will likely further decimate British beef trade.

It is hard not to wonder if there is some systemic reason why the "sceptred isle" seems the be the lightning rod for these animal diseases. At the very least, we can say charming small producers in idyllic agrarian settings are not better protected against contagious outbreaks. In fact, it would seem insistence on past methods of animal husbandry sets up producers for persistent ancient disease scourges.

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