Korea Times 01-19-2011
FMD ― a manmade disaster
By Kim Jin-hyun
The rage of foot and mouth disease (FMD), which first broke out in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, in late November, is sweeping the entire country like wildfire. Nearly 1.5 million cattle and pigs have had to be buried, dead or alive.
Citizens and experts have criticized the agricultural officials’ poor responses to the initial outbreaks, but I think there were clear limitations to containing the latest bout of this animal disease either by quarantine or vaccination.
For example, ranchers have grown most of their animals with more than 90 percent of imported artificial feed, including GMO corn and Omega-6 fatty acid, to make them more tender and delicious, while relying heavily on antibiotics to make them grow up quicker.
Moreover, they have reared their stock in a factory-like environment without considering what kind of environment is most appropriate for animals. This means that most cattle and pigs are inevitably exposed to a poor environment infected with various diseases and have a weak resistance to those ailments.
Worse yet, the authorities have learned few lessons from their experiences in 2000 and 2002 when FMD also hit Korea. They must have taken extra caution since then, considering that even industrial countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, have suffered considerable damages from it. So far, 79 countries have suffered from the lethal animal disease.
Free trade agreements among countries even aggravate the animal pandemic further by preventing one country from rooting it out fundamentally because of mandatory import and consumption of foreign meat products.
This export-oriented country of ours also has had difficulty in blocking diseases relating to agriculture and stockbreeding. Several years ago, one Western country was exporting pork to Korea, but the meat was seriously contaminated and should have been blocked.
But some domestic interest groups interfered with the pork imports, forcing Koreans to eat the meat sold by thoughtless butchers linked with the problematic importers.
Such being the case, it’s all but impossible to prevent foot and mouth disease. Nevertheless, if the authorities and ranchers had known more about the situation, they could have avoided it. Instead, they responded to the first outbreak very loosely and now the disease has become a national calamity.
I think the disease symbolizes men’s violence and greed so frantic with materialism that they will do anything to make money by fair means or foul even if the process is unconscionable and unnatural.
It may be another of God’s revelations to warn against the rapacity of human beings toward animals.
Do you want to observe His message further? There are more examples of mass death without particular reason. Flocks of 5,000 gray starlings fell to the ground and were killed in Arkansas, U.S., last year. Tens of thousands of earthworms were also killed on the road in Guangzhou, China. In additiion, flocks of ravens and doves, schools of sardines and snappers, and numerous blue crabs were killed in 11 countries. I have no more time to list every natural catastrophe.
More than 150 years ago, Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe said, “If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.”
The writer is an English teacher at Yeosu Girls’ High School in South Jeolla Province. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.