It’s been reported in the Guardian that GM cattle have been created in in China that are either resistant to bovine TB or have suffered very minimal effects of the disease. This is being hailed by certain scientists in this country as the answer to the epidemic here.
Prof Mike Coffey is quoted as saying: “This would slow down any spread of the disease and slowly reduce the national level in herds.” He added: “The GM approach cuts out the middleman”, a reference to the speed at which resistant animals can be produced in contrast to traditonal breeding techniques.
The term “middleman” refers to a person who buys goods from producers and sells them to retailers or consumers. That it’s used to describe this process tells us all we need to know about the commodification of animals and agriculture under capitalism.
TB is endemic in modern farmed cattle because the animals’ immune systems have been damaged by intensive farming. Cows are treated as milk machines whose sole purpose is to provide the maximum profit for the farmer. After 5-6 years when their yield drops they are slaughtered for cheap meat. Cows naturally live for 20 or more years.
Their calves – which are the inevitable by-product of lactation – are taken away within one day of being born. Female calves are sold at market and most male calves are shot – up to 100,000 die this way each year in the UK.
Such an unnatural and cruel system leads to diseases like mastitis and TB. Badgers have been blamed for the latter and they are being culled in certain areas. This been fiercely opposed by activists and most experts disagree with it. It has also – surprise, surprise! – failed to reduce the disease on farms.
Now cows themselves are being made to suffer through these insane experiments in which they are given a mouse gene which is supposed to protect against TB. In fact 10 of the 23 genetically modified calves didn’t even survive into adulthood.
The article quotes another scientist from Edinburgh University as saying: “The world faces unprecedented population growth on the backdrop of competing pressure on agricultural land and resources . Society needs to embrace many strategies to address the global challenge.”
That’s correct. The huge increase in population is in farmed animals, currently running at about 60 billion and forecast to increase by 50% in the next 30 or so years. This research, if successful, would only add to that and cause immense suffering in the meantime as well.
The strategy that should be embraced is one that puts animals and agriculture before profit, by building a green, anarchist and vegan world where humans can live in harmony with each other and the rest of nature. So-called “solutions” such as GM plants or animals do nothing to achieve this and are not the answer.
An earlier post on the cull: https://network23.org/redblackgreen/2014/09/22/cull-tories-not-badgers/
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