“Having to bury little baby pigs alive is … there’s no way to describe how I suffered inside,” sobbed the wife of one farmer who said she was so ashamed she declined to give her name. “It still breaks my heart to think or talk about what happened here.” Some women in the farming town of Changmanri, about an hour outside of Seoul, compared the prospect of having to kill their animals to that of killing their own children.
When a government of a major Asian power mandates the “culling” of three million farmed animals to prevent the spread of a highly contagious disease and the method is live burial (essentially suffocation), I think we must seriously ask ourselves, what kind of world are we creating? How can we justify the mass breeding of animals to feed our population (their sole existence being to serve as food) and then when they become ill and contagious (due to our own poor animal husbandry practices), we respond by inflicting upon them the fate of death by suffocation? What perverse form of judgement would inflict this kind of suffering on defenseless animals who rely entirely on our mercy, or lack thereof? What more humane alternatives might exist to prevent such an atrocity? I do hope these are the questions on people’s mind when reading about this tragedy.
In the last few weeks, the South Korean government has been executing this extermination process with holocaust-like precision. The images of trucks pulling up to giant industrial burial pits and dumping terrified living animals, both newborns and adults, evokes a scene out of Dante’s Inferno, but not something we’d expect from a modern-day civil society.
The disease in question, known as hoof and mouth disease, only in very rare cases infects humans. The fastest and cheapest way to deal with it is burial and burning. At least, that’s what officials in the U.K. will tell you based on their own experiences with the epidemic.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, South Korean officials say many cows and farm-raised deer have been injected first with succinylcholine, a neuromuscular blocking drug used to euthanize livestock. They deny any cruelty, but do admit a shortage of drugs has led to some live burials. Animal protection advocates say the small doses administered merely paralyze the animals rather than rendering them unconscious.
While vaccinations for FMD exist, the virus that causes the disease is highly adaptable, making any vaccination program somewhat unpredictable. Global epidemics are a major concern of livestock producers across the globe. If and when such an epidemic occurs globally, one wonders how it will be contained when no successful prevention program apparently exists, other than the obvious barbaric method described above? If and when this occurs, what mass genocide will we be prepared to inflict against the animals whose sole existence on this planet is to satisfy our fleeting and murderous palate pleasure?