Once again People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is making news by again hoping that |foot and mouth| disease finds its way to the United States. This time around its Bruce Friedrich who sent a letter to officials planning the World Dairy Expo to ask them to cancel the event. In the letter, Friedrich reaffirms PETA’s belief that the disease would be a godsend for the animal rights movement in the U.S. As is typical with PETA, Friedrich’s claims are based on lousy logic and misinformation.
According to Friedrich, if animals in the United States came down with foot-and-mouth disease this would spare them from a trip to the slaughter house. In fact U.S. agricultural officials have planned a scorched earth policy for containing a possible outbreak of the disease that would likely make the British reaction seem mild in comparison. Such planning has been kept relatively low key, but a confirmed case of the disease would result in a very thorough and systematic slaughtering of animals in the area of the outbreak to contain the disease.
Friedrich and PETA also seem to be under the impression that a foot-and-mouth outbreak might turn more people into vegetarians. “I suppose if it happens [an outbreak of foot-and-mouth in the United States], we’ll write a massive thank you note because it’ll turn a massive amount of people into vegetarians.”
The immediate result of a serious outbreak would be a rapid increase in the cost of some meat, especially beef. But past disease outbreaks contradict the view that people would then turn to vegetarianism. Even in the UK, where mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth have garnered plenty of negative attention, people seem to prefer switching to meat they perceive as safe and/or cheap rather than become vegetarians.
Tom Thieding, communications director for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, came closer to the truth when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “We’re not worried. We know there are nuts out there and PETA confirms that. We don’t get too hung up on anything that PETA says anymore.”
PETA welcomes foot-and-mouth disease. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 24, 2001.
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