Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is an epidemic, contagious and viral disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals, including cows, sheep, goats, swine, buffalo, antelope and warthogs. FMD is one of the most contagious viral diseases of animals, occurring frequently and/or sporadically in many parts of South America, Africa, the Middle and Near East, and Asia. FMD has been known for four centuries and generally produces a fever (pyrexia), erosions and lesions (vesicles) around the mouth and feet, followed by salivation and lameness.
Foot and mouth disease in people
With an incubation period of 2-14 days, a very small dose of FMD can infect large populations of animals in a variety of ways including: airborne via the breath, in saliva, feces, urine, milk, semen, ruptured lesions, menstrual blood, sweat, and in meat and meat by-products. Deaths usually occur only in young animals; however, all animals infected with FMD can no longer be considered viable for meat products, and milk production performance is diminished. The fact that all FMD infected animals are slaughtered to prevent any spread of the disease clearly demonstrates that livestock animals are treated merely as products, and that they are not worth anything when they cannot be eaten or used for food by-products.
Apparently, the disease does not affect humans, although the virus can remain active in the human nasal passage for up to 28 hours. Humans can spread foot and mouth disease to animals and infect them. This is of great concern to many countries that are currently FMD-free, as the disease can cause severe economic losses. While scientists maintain that humans are not affected by FMD, it is difficult to be one hundred percent positive about this statement. However, it is safe to say that humans are definitely affected emotionally, economically, socially and politically, by FMD. But obviously, animals with FMD suffer a great deal more
Although foot and mouth disease can be minimized by vaccination and other zoosanitary measures, the policy of eradication has been the norm, meaning no tolerance of the presence or possible incursion of the virus.
There are two main reasons for this:
1) While vaccines can stop the symptoms of FMD from showing, vaccinated animals can still spread the virus to other animals. Also, vaccinated animals are generally not accepted for meat and meat by-products.
2) It is easier and cheaper to destroy all sick animals, even though most recover from FMD, rather than risk infection of healthy animals that can still be slaughtered for meat.
Due to trade restrictions and economic threats, most livestock producers and handlers slaughter all infected and in-contact “stock” of animals, with the carcasses being either incinerated, buried, or sold to rendering plants in sealed containers. There is great concern over water pollution from buried carcasses, as well as the spread of disease from infected countries to traditionally FMD-free zones like North America and Australia. Previously, continental Europe had eradicated foot and mouth disease by mass animal vaccination campaigns and stringent zoosanitary measures following outbreaks; however, recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease have spread more quickly than anticipated and are proving more difficult to contain than in previous outbreaks. One reason for this is the sheer volume of livestock being produced in the U.K. for meat and meat by-products. As the affluence of the Western nations has increased, so has the demand for meat. Larger livestock farms exacerbate the problem of disease control, as does the international import and export trade of livestock.
As of September 2001, almost 4 million animals have been slaughtered, with an additional 20,000 awaiting slaughter in the U.K. alone, costing approximately 4 billion dollars. Foot and mouth disease threatens the livelihoods of large, sophisticated farming practices, simple farmers, and the national and international agricultural economies of many countries. Direct costs include control, surveillance, maintenance of vaccinations and sanitary measures, media correspondence, slaughter, loss of dairy production, and border control. Indirect costs due to trade embargos can be staggering. A U.S. outbreak of foot and mouth disease would have enormous economic repercussions, estimated at over 8 billion dollars. If we take into consideration that most meat and dairy industries are publicly funded by subsidies from the government, the actual cost of eating meat and supporting meat industries is truly horrendous.
As of the fall of 2001, over 2000 cases of foot and mouth disease have been detected in a new outbreak crisis in Europe. The U.S. has already banned all animals and animal products originating in the European Union. This comes at a time when Europe has already been hard hit by the outbreak of mad cow disease. One must wonder what disease will strike next, or whether North America will be able to prevent similar holocausts. Let us all consider the ramifications on the planet of a society that chooses to eat meat, and farm businesses that deal in the mass production of animals for food. It is difficult to recall the last disease that has been spread by the tofu and broccoli industries. Supporting small, local, and organic farms that produce plant-based foods is an excellent way to help prevent more animal-borne diseases from spreading. Contact your local or state representative and voice your concerns over issues like foot and mouth disease and the livestock industries that help to spread it. Choose vegetarian living, and brainstorm ways that you can spread the joy of vegetarian living in your own way. A few, dedicated individuals who are not content to blindly follow the status quo often start lasting changes in society. You can be one of those trail blazers. Your dietary choices do make a difference in the world, as do your political voice and vote.
… recent outbreaks of FMD have spread more quickly than anticipated and are proving more difficult to contain than in previous outbreaks.