FMD 2007 – Scottish lambs wasted

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The slaughter and disposal of hundreds of thousands of lambs in Scotland has been described as an “awful necessity” by the National Farmer’s Union for Scotland. Despite the re-opening of trade with the EU from Low Risk areas planned for 12th October, apparently it’s all too late for these lambs – the latest victims of Defra’s FMD fiasco.

There is a wide variation in the numbers quoted. The NFUS website says tens of thousands await starvation, the BBC report a quarter of a million, and the Times state up to 400,000 animals will be culled.

FMD trade restrictions prevented the movement of these animals off the hills, where the grazing is not sufficient to sustain them. Now the farmers claim they will starve, and therefore must be culled out. The meat will go to waste, which must be very upsetting for the farmers.

These lambs are of a specially-bred variety of small sheep, intended for a continental European market where they are cooked whole, and known as light lamb in the trade. According to the NFUS there is no market for such small animals in the UK, and because export of the immature lambs is prohibited, they are of no use.

Defra’s compensation package for the welfare cull offers the farmers values each lamb at just £15 each. This tiny figure, and the fact that the government aren’t paying for the cost of the slaughter, contrast with Hillary Benn’s proud announcement of a £12million compensation package for England’s farmers affected by this year’s Foot and Mouth Disease outbreaks.

Autumn of Hell
NFUS President Jim McLaren said, “This is another dark day in what is turning out to be the Autumn from hell for Scotland’s livestock industry.  To have reached the point where we have to dispose of lambs because they are facing starvation is just horrendous.  We have been calling for this scheme, which is an awful necessity. 

“Many farmers will struggle with the concept of the lambs, which they helped come into the world this Spring, being disposed of.  However it will at least bring some relief to them as the welfare crisis they are facing can now be eased.

“We have had reports coming in of lambs dying already because the grass is gone and the weather is closing in.  The condition of tens of thousands of lambs that are still on farms is  rapidly deteriorating because of the lack of feed and, worse still, they are eating the grass that the ewes rely on over the Winter.  If our breeding flock suffers losses over the Winter, the consequences for the long-term future Scottish sheep industry don’t bear thinking about.

“The fact that the UK Government has still refused to pick up the cost of this scheme is nothing short of a disgrace.  The Scottish Government has stepped in and that is absolutely critical, but the negligence and inaction in London will not be forgotten by Scottish farmers.”

NFU Scotland published a report at the end of September. They said there was no market for “10kg lambs” and yet they also asked for the 25kg limit to be lifted, which suggests they must have larger animals in mind.

Welfare must come first
Compassion in World Farming have called for animal welfare to come before trade. They reported that chaos broke out during a slaughter on 15th September and have empasised that we must remember these culls are stressful events for sentient animals, and must be carried out with due care.

LINKS:
> BBC News
> Times Online
> the NFUS website
> Compassion in World Farming

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