NEWSLETTER Oct - Dec 2008


The FVE’s Position Paper states an unequivocal opinion closely in keeping with the views of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) to which many vets involved in the State Veterinary Service and in farming and the meat and dairy industries belong) and of well-informed animal welfarists with some knowledge of the subject (eg the RSPCA and Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), a government appointed body. The statements rely on scientific evidence, some of it presented by VEGA on our website and in consultations with the FAWC; and we look forward to debate with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the consortium of associated interests (cross-department and cross-agency) that it will be assembling to assert authority over standards, claims, practice, training, and labelling.

The FAWC has suffered 2 rebuffs in its efforts at persuading Government to ban the slaughter of animals for their meat that permit “sticking and bleeding” as a means of killing a fully conscious animal in the UK (eg by slitting of the throat and or stabbing into the chest cavity) and exsanguination until death supervenes. These are methods insisted upon by most Jewish authorities and Muslim Imams for the preparation of Kosher and Halal meat; such products may enter the normal supply unlabelled and in accord with the customers’ expectation that such practises cannot rate as “humane killing or slaughter” (whatever they may wish to understand about such terms)...

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It is expected today [8 Dec] that 100,000 Irish pigs are to be culled in the wake of “the country’s biggest food scare since BSE.” Nine farms in Northern Ireland have been identified as having used the contaminated pig feed suspected as the source in the Republic; however, no pigs have yet tested positive in Northern Ireland. Britain’s Food Standards Agency is adopting rigorous precautionary principles; the food and retailing side is making urgent assessments of traceability and recalls of stocks. It is estimated that €125m worth of food products in Ireland and in export markets – including up to 25 countries worldwide – will have to be destroyed.

Contaminated pig meat may have reached 20 to 25 other countries declares Paddy Rogan, the Irish Republic’s Chief Veterinary Officer. Just over 8% of Britain’s imports of pig meat, 51,700 tonnes in the first nine months of the year, comes from the Republic. The suspected contaminants are PCB’s which are persistent fat-soluble (lipophilic) toxins of usually industrial origins lingering in the environment. Leakages from machinery and “wastes” are suspected sources and have already led to reservations over the consumption of fish, wild and farmed and at environmental risk.

The dioxins were initially detected in the present crisis in the Republic in a consignment of feed supplied by a feed recycling plant. Millstream Power Recycling says that officials are testing an oil which had never been added as an ingredient but which was used in a machine for drying feedstuffs. The Republic’s agriculture Minister reports that 47 farms including 38 beef farms have been placed under movement restriction “as having received possibly contaminated feed.”...

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An agreement has been signed by the MHS and the meat inspectors’ union committing the parties to engage “in meaningful and serious discussions to reach a timely negotiating settlement on pay and revised terms and conditions of service for year two of the two-year pay deal”.

Expressing his pleasure at this result Steve McGrath, MHS Chief Executive, described his pleasure at the success of the negotiations. “I have always been confident that we could reach an agreement and I look forward to continuing our constructive dialog in the new year”.“In recognition of” the exceptional economic pressures facing MHS staff and as a gesture of goodwill” the MHS has agreed to implement year one of the two-year pay deal, as of January 2009.

The characteristics of the turkey (and geese) industries and the numbers of small-scale on-farm enterprises, particularly among those claiming to be “free range” or “organic” and using casual labour, puts strain on the assurances of the MHS and its deputed inspectors that the “gesture of goodwill” will bring any worthwhile relief to the birds, who lack effective votes for Christmas or any other season. Many veggies will face difficult decisions in enjoying the spirit of goodwill while avoiding complicity in an avoidable massacre...

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However, this illustration is elevated to its prominence on the letters page by one factor out of the ordinary run of such infections in the UK: an investigation by experts at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency's centres in Warwickshire and Surrey and by a vet at the Belmont Veterinary Centre in Hereford that discloses the effects of a pathogen, Mycoplasma Bovis, rarely isolated in the UK from cows milk.

Mycoplasma Bovis commonly causes calf pneumonia in the UK, but the clinical presentation in the illustrated cow was "different from M. Bovis mastitis previously described in the UK, but similar to outbreaks described in the USA, where M. Bovis is a major mastitis pathogen," the authors observe.

The herd consisted of 165 Holstein cows "of high genetic merit", explains the communication. "Despite a high milk yield the herd had a 12-month rolling bulk milk somatic sell count (BMSSC) exceeding 500,000 cells/ml and a high incidence of periparturient diseases associated with excessive weight loss after calving. Waste milk was fed to calves, all of which were retained for breeding or until slaughter" continues the report...

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The prosecution was brought by Carmarthenshire County Council, of which Richards is chairman. He is a former president of the National Farmers’ Union in Wales. He was fined £920 on charges of cruelty to animals. In his defence Richards said after the case that “farmers needed to be aware of the higher standards demanded under the Act.” He said, “I’m bitterly sorry that it happened, but it was not intentional. It was an oversight.”

VEGA had a lot to do with discussions and consultations with the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

There are other options, which can be discussed with the FSA by phoning 0800 073 0228. The proceedings will be presented on a webcast, which offers the querulous a chance to assess the scenario and opportunities. VEGA will be there and we need support, even by a declaration of your interest and presence.

Registrants and participants have nothing to pay and can enjoy a cup of FSA tea. Come to the meeting even if your only purpose is to demand provision in the Agency’s catering for unexceptionable “milk” to impress the Board with the needs of dairy-frees, meat-frees, and cruelty-frees.

Questions and discussion involving the audience over the final half-hour can cover the full range of the FSA’s interests.

  1. A Hajjiography - Religionís Biggest Pilgrimage, Congregation, and Slaughterhouse
  2. Vegalicious Pick-me-ups for Busy Veggies from Tesco - Pick Me, a new range of prepared meals that "puts healthy food on your plate in minutes
  3. Soya Drives Dairy-free Category - Dairy-free is becoming a well-recognized category in the grocery market
  4. Will this Christmas be Meat-Free? - The Meat Hygiene Service Faces Threats of Strikes  






Hon. Research Adviser:
Dr Alan Long


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